• Kenneth Leighton
  • Quartet In One Movement (1972)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • piano 4t
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Quartet in One Movement (Contrasts and Variants), Op. 63

This work was commissioned by the Richards Piano Quartet with fund provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and completed during the spring of 1972. The first performance took place in the Purcell Room in London later in the same year.

Although played without a break, the music can be divided into a number of clearly defined sections:-

1. A slow, lyrical and fairly contrapuntal presentation of the basic material, characterised above all by piled up seconds and leaping sevenths. Here the textural contrast between piano and strings is evident in the different dynamic levels on which they function - e.g. strings ff appasionato and piano obstinately quiet and calm.

2. A more passionate section and a more chromatic development of the material, with piano leading off with an elaborate single line, and accompanied by string chords pizzicato. Later this conflict in the texture is reversed, with long lines on strings and brief exclamations on the piano.

3. A short restatement on the initial idea, but with the fresh textural element of muted strings. The second are now piled up much higher.

4. An Allegro Violente in which the built up whole tones tend to become semitones.

5. A waltz, again using mainly plucked strings. The music is here to be played with irony and even bitterness.

6. A Presto section which leads to the climax of the work and also the most radical point of contrast between piano and strings. Here the pianist plays quite independently of the strings as if improvising, while the strings quietly fade from the scene.

7. Out of this confusion a new piling up of seconds emerges very softly, and leads to the final section - slow and hymn-like, though not without elements of the dance.

The work is thus a series of continuous variations, and in its texture attempts to find fresh ways of exploring the contrast between piano and strings.

© Kenneth Leighton

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