Commissioned by the BBC

  • str
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Writing for strings has always been what I have most enjoyed-whether for strings quartet or for larger groups - so when I was offered a commission for the Proms in 1983 I was grateful for the opportunity of writing for a big body of strings.

My Music for Strings is in four movements and plays about twenty minutes. It opens quietly with warm sombre repeated chords, placed low in the strings.

The texture then breaks up into individual lines, and the rest of this fairly extended movement is contrapuntal in character. The opening chords recur once on the way and again at the end of the movement, while a solo violin moves over them.

The Scherzo is in direct contrast, very lightly scored, much of it pizzicato. A broad descending melody in five-four time breaks in and later combines with the five-eight pizzicato figures, which then thin out and end in a wisp of a sound.

The third movement, Mesto (Sad) opens with a statement for solo viola, and this lonely melody stamps its character on the whole movement. A more vigorous passage builds up, with long interweaving lines, but subsides again leaving the solo viola alone at the end.

The Finale is an extrovert happy-go-lucky movement, strongly rhythmical. The strings toss little melodic figures backwards and forwards, stabbing them with off-beat accents.

The broad five-four tune from the Scherzo makes a brief reappearance, combined with the rhythmic figures, and leads to an insouciant throwaway ending.

Programme note by Elizabeth Maconchy


Music for Strings I. Molto moderato
Music for Strings II. Scherzo
Music for Strings III. Mesto
Music for Strings IV. Finale: Allegro