• Elizabeth Maconchy
  • String Quartet No 11 (1976)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the City Music Society

  • String Quartet
  • 16 min

Programme Note

This was commissioned by the City Music Society and first performed by the Lindsay String Quartet on 13 December 1977 at Goldsmiths’ Hall, London.

It is a continuous piece of about 15 minutes without a break, though it divides clearly into contrasted sections. The texture is consistently contrapuntal, as indeed in nearly all my quartets, and the thematic material is closely interwoven. It makes sense only as a whole, not piecemeal. A handful of germinal ideas run right throughout the work: Two easily recognisable, are the little three note-figure with which it opens, and the interval of a minor 7th appearing immediately in the cello which is important both melodically and harmonically all the way. These little motifs and the themes that grow from them form the main material of the piece: appearing, combining, and reappearing in different ways.

It is perhaps the most integrated of my quartets - rather like a piece of woven material with contrasting patterns and colours running through it, which is yet ‘all-of-a-piece’. An opening Lento is followed by a Scherzo-like movement with a slow middle section; then a Molto Moderato leading to the finale, Vivo. In the Epilogue a return is made to the slow tempo of the opening, with a backward glance to events that have happened on the way. The quartet ends serenely.

Elizabeth Maconchy

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