Commissioned by the Edinburgh Quartet with financial support from Creative Scotland, PRS for Music Foundation, Britten-Pears Foundation, RVW Trust and Hope Scott Trust.
For the Edinburgh Quartet.
When I was approached to write a piece for the Edinburgh Quartet I was delighted – I had wanted to write a string quartet for quite some time and was waiting for the right opportunity to do so. The string quartet has one of the richest repertoires and much history behind it, so for me, one of the main challenges was letting go of all those associations and approaching it as I would for any other combination. I am not a string player, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Although I’m constantly thinking of the technical challenges and making the music playable, not actually being able to play can be freeing, leading to musical risks that I might not take otherwise. I came to the String Quartet after writing a lot of chamber music for strings, including two Piano Trios (a combination which I found equally daunting) and a String Sextet.
This was the first piece I completed after giving birth to my son, Samuel, in August 2013. It was an emotionally rich and creative time for me and although I wrote some of the music (about a minute or so) when pregnant, most was composed in early 2014. I’m unsure if this affected the composition or not, but interestingly the form of the piece (which was quite carefully planned beforehand) underwent quite a huge change when I began composing again.
The work is in three movements, which all run together without a break, the material of each new movement overlapping with the end of the previous one. My music tends to be very organic generally and this is very much true of the Quartet. The speeds and musical material of each movement are closely related to create seamless links and associations between ideas. To some extent I imagined the piece as one continuous whole, and I hope this will come over to the listener.
The first movement opens with a fast duo for Violin II and Viola – different pairings are a feature of the piece in general – and ends with a duo for Violin I and Cello. The second movement is by far the longest of the three, while the third is a sort of moto perpetuo, featuring virtuoso writing for each instrument.
Programme note © 2014 Helen Grime
- Heath Quartet record Helen Grime’s second quartet
- 10th April 2023
- The debut recording of String Quartet No. 2 by Helen Grime featuring the Heath Quartet is now available on the NMC label