• Hugh Wood
  • String Quartet in Bb (1957)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2vn.va.vc
  • 18 min

Programme Note

The String Quartet in B flat is a student work written during study with Iain Hamilton in 1956-7, and it reflects my discoveries and passions of that time. All summer long in 1956, I carried around in my pocket two scores by Michael Tippett: the Double Concerto and the Second String Quartet: and at that time I heard one of the first performances of The Midsummer Marriage. The Bartók quartets I’d first encountered some years before in performances by the Amadeus Quartet at the Summer School, than at Bryanston: and there I’d completely fallen for his Divertimento for String Orchestra. These latter works inspired the urgent energy of my own last movement. But new siren voices were coming from 1900s Vienna; belonging maybe to Mahler and Berg, but not yet revealing the full Schœnbergian epiphany which was to direct the rest of my composing life.
So whereas the successive movements of this piece cannot be said to show any stylistic unity, they do show somebody in the process of growing up musically. Over the years, this score has occasionally been tackled by student and amateur groups. But it was not until earlier this year that the Chilingirian Quartet gave it a real airing at a concert in the Royal College of Music. To the great benefit of the whole, I trimmed the first two movements somewhat for this and any subsequent performances.

Hugh Wood