Quartet for Eight

Programme Note

Quartet for Eight explores the superimposition of different types of musical material. Sometimes the different layers of material cohere well with one another, giving a sense of repose or of homecoming; at other times they contradict each other both expressively and harmonically, which leads to a feeling of occasionally violent rupture. The gradual (or sudden) evolution between these two extremes articulates the dramatic narrative of the piece.

Quartet for Eight opens with consecutive expositions of four very different types of music: an opening fanfare of elaborate flourishes; a section of syncopated chords; some much slower material; and finally an assertive horn solo. These four ideas are subsequently divided up among the ensemble: the wind play the fanfares; the harp and percussion play the syncopated chords; the strings play the slow material; and the horn continues to play its solo line. These groups of instruments remain discrete units throughout most of the remainder of the piece, which catalogues the different textures which can be created by superimposing two, three or four of these groups.

There follows a passage in which all four groups play simultaneously, after which the music suddenly cuts to a ‘duet’ between the wind and the horn. This is followed by most (but not all) combinations of two groups of instruments: next is the horn line layered upoin the combination of harp and percussion, then wind with harp and percussion, and so on. After a slower section the music proceeds to work through every combination of three groups of instruments, starting with a ‘trio’ of wind, horn and strings. Finally, at the climax, all four groups play together again: a ‘quartet for eight’.

Year: 2009
Duration: 7′
Instrumentation: Mixed Ensemble (fl-c.a.-cl(=bcl) – hn – perc(1): vib/mar/tri/susp.cymb/4 T.B./tam-t – hp – vla.vc)


7th February 2009
BBC Symphony Orchestra players, Pierre-André Valade (Conductor)
Barbican Foyer