Commissioned by the Naxos Recording Company

  • string quartet
  • 41 min

Programme Note

The second of the series of ten quartets commissioned by Naxos was finished in January 2003. It has four movements: the second and third are closely related, and separated by only a very brief pause, and the first is the most substantial.

A slow, hushed introduction defines the outlines of harmonic and rhythmic spaces which the first movement – and indeed the whole work – will fill out. One hears the shapes at a distance, as if enshrouded in fog. The ensuing Allegro proper appears to have a classical form; an exposition, with two subject groups, is followed by a development section. What seems to be the initiation of a second exposition is a trap, merely triggering the next developmental procedures. This whole section suggests to me a maze of mirrors, some distorting. Where the recapitulation is expected, I have placed the mere ghost of a scherzo, all in pianissimo, which bridges into a coda.

The second movement has two parts – a recitative, full of drama and contrast, and a short, expressive arioso. A scherzo proper follows directly: I thought of this as an Intermezzo, offering some gentle relief.

The fourth is a slow movement, which builds gradually – and I would like to think, inevitably – to the harmonic core and crystallisation of the processes set in motion.

This quartet is dedicated to the composer Ian Kellam. He was my first musical friend, when we both played our compositions on BBC Children’s Hour, more than fifty years ago.

© Peter Maxwell Davies 2003


Naxos Quartet No. 2: I. Lento - Allegro
Naxos Quartet No. 2: II. Lento flessibile
Naxos Quartet No. 2: III. Allegro
Naxos Quartet No. 2: IV. Lento flessibile


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