Quartet in G minor for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli
1. Allegro energico
2. Andante un poco adagio
3. Menuetto: Allegro
Style: Late Classical, ca. 1790-1800
Composed: 3 August – 6 December, 2018 at Austin
Here they are then,…dearest Friend, these six children of mine. They are, it is true, the fruit of a long and laborious endeavour, yet the hope inspired in me by several Friends that it may be at least partly compensated encourages me, and I flatter myself that this offspring will serve to afford me solace one day. –W.A. Mozart, Published Letter of Dedication, Six String Quartets to Haydn, 1 September, 1785
I quote Mozart here because his sentiments are very much my own regarding the Six Quartets I composed last year for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli, of which the present posting is but one example; though it is one of the best, choosing it to post from among the others in the set was like choosing a favourite of my children. Though Mozart expresses himself with a humility uncommon for him, he clearly was proud of his work, as I am of mine. Indeed, I consider my Quartets to be my magnum opus to date – the most important and highest quality work I have ever produced, and the crowning achievement of decades as a composer.
Having researched the matter to some degree, to my knowledge no other composer has attempted a work for this combination of instruments, hence mine are likely unique in the chamber music repertoire. Despite being unusual, I have found the combination of pairs of violas and ‘cellos, though not without its challenges and limitations, to be very successful and pleasing, and I hope you will agree. The 1st Viola and 1st ‘Cello take the lead a fair amount of the time, and the instruments also operate in pairs as one might expect, but much of the time the ensemble is a cohesive whole, with all the instruments more or less equal.
The character of this work is fraught with frenetic energy and angst, particularly in the fast and furious outer movements – even in moments of relative calm, the forward motion is relentless. The easygoing second movement is a comparative walk in the park, moving leisurely along. The third movement is a nervous, jumpy minuet, punctuated by forte diminished chords; the Trio alla ghironda (in the style of a hurdy gurdy) is characterized by a harmonized melody in G-Lydian mode in the violas, accompanied by a drone in the ‘cellos for a rustic sound.
Fun fact about this piece: I conceived the final Rondo during a Nine Inch Nails set at a rock festival in San Antonio! And another: I composed the first half of the opening movement entirely in my head before I began writing it down.
I’ll be very interested to know what people think of this piece and the combination of these instruments, and I hope listening to it will be a pleasant adventure into a different sound-world.
NOTE: Since evidently I can only attach 3 files, the score to the Menuetto has been omitted.