• Ross Edwards
  • String Quartet No. 2 (2008)
    (Shekina Fantasy )

  • Wise Music G. Schirmer Australia Pty Ltd (World)

Programme Note

My second (mature) string quartet draws together and attempts to reconcile diverse components of my musical language from its formative years to the present day. The canvas is wide: my influences have been absorbed from natural and cultural environments of Australia and South East Asia: birdsong, real or imagined; textures revolving on various kinds of chant and drone which have been shaped and inflected by insect sound patterns; and others drawn from my European heritage (plainsong, counterpoint). All have been rigorously compressed and, I hope, integrated into a comprehensive statement of an intuitive personal mythology which views the world from an Australian perspective.

The first movement is full of contrast: a phantasmagoria of mysterious landscapes suddenly flooded with bright daylight and searing polyphonic episodes which dissolve into reverie and the serenity of lullaby. The opening motif I later identified as the eerie cry of a mountain bird which must have embedded itself in my subconscious. Recalled several times it is grotesquely distorted in the course of a nightmare interlude which parodies the fragmentary gestures of European expressionism.

A fantasy episode centered on the Magnificat prefigures my rhapsodic treatment of a phrase of this canticle throughout the second movement, where it is introduced by the cello. Marked cantando, it represents the human voice, and I associate its song with the Shekina, the female soul of God – a yearning for the possibility of ecological healing and human survival on the planet. References to the canticle are woven into textures ranging between extremes of intensity and ethereality before coming to rest in a calm, final statement.

The third movement is a mobilum perpetuum in the nature of a scherzo, or in my own terminology, a maninya (dance chant). More graceful dance rhythms characterize the fourth and final movement until they dissolve into an unsettled middle section with fleeting references to the Magnificat, the birdcall, the nightmare, and the cadenza from my violin concerto, Maninyas, which was composed for Dene Olding, first violin of the Goldner Quartet. The graceful dance returns to conclude the work.

My quartet is dedicated to Ken Tribe and the Goldner Quartet with gratitude and affection.

R. E.