• Anthony Payne
  • Consort Music (1987)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Medici String Quartet

  • str 5t
  • 16 min

Programme Note

CONSORT MUSIC for string quintet was commissioned by the Medici Quartet with funds provided by the Eastern Arts Association. The work was premiered incomplete on 27 July 1987 at the Cambridge Festival and the first complete performance was given on 16 March 1988 at the Wigmore Hall, London.

In 1986, I spent four months teaching in the composition department of the Conservatorium in Sydney and found my schedule so efficiently organised that I had a generous amount of time left over for my own work, including the opportunity to catch up with many listening projects I had promised myself over the years. I spent much of this listening time immersed in the music of the 14th and 15th centuries, for instance, and there have subsequently been several creative spin-offs, among them a suite of songs by Dufay arranged for brass quintet.

This not only involved sifting a lot of material and linking songs that shared motivic characteristics; more ambitious was the string quintet which I called CONSORT MUSIC. This was the outcome of listening to a lot of Tudor and Jacobean chamber music, which prompted me to write my piece against that particular cultural and stylistic background rather than the more familiar Austro-Germanic tradition.

The sound of the work is in no way neo-Elizabethan, of course; but taking a lead from some of the more elaborate fantasias of the period, like Byrd's superb 6-part No 2, I alternate sections of somewhat vocal polyphony (A) with syncopated dance-like music, mostly chordal in style (B). These lead to a high-lying song for the solo violin related to A and an extant ground where material from earlier in the work is developed and varied as two passacaglia themes, a characteristic descending bass and a short sequence of chords. There is a final return of the dance music and a brief coda completing the
scheme A-B-A-B-A-C-B, Coda.

ANTHONY PAYNE - February 1988