• John McCabe
  • Partita For String Quartet (1960)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 2vn.va.vc
  • 21 min

Programme Note

Lamento - Fantasia - Arioso - Capriccio - Epilogue

The five movements of this work decrease in length and complexity. The opening Lamento, which was written in 1959 during my period as a student at Manchester University, is almost a miniature quartet in itself, with four contrasted sections played continuously. The following year, for fellow students at the then Royal Manchester College of Music, I drew on the material of the Lamento for the remaining four movements. The title Partita was used at the first performances, but when I came to write another work for string quartet, in 1972, I decided that this really took its place in my output as my first quartet, hence the subtitle.

The Fantasia, as the title indicates, is free in form, and is based directly on its opening themes - it becomes quicker towards the end, and is followed by a more orthodox slow movement entitled Arioso. This leads without a break into the fast and boisterous Capriccio, which in turn leads into a short Epilogue, ending indeterminately, fading into the distance after references to the very opening of the work. Thematically, the quartet almost entirely derives from the rhapsodic opening theme for violin, and makes intermittent and rather free use of twelve-tone technique, though always in a tonal context.

© 1991 by John McCabe