In my first two String Quartets (No. 1 ‘The Bustard’, premiered at the Wigmore Hall by the Maggini Quartet in 2008, and No. 2, performed by the same Quartet in Canterbury in 2010, both recorded for Naxos) I found myself enthused and inspired by writing purely instrumental music. Most of my previous compositions had been in response to words and poetry and were written for solo voices or for choir, but now the floodgates were open for writing for instruments, and in that most hallowed of forms – the string quartet. Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 come from the same ‘stable’ because there seemed to be so much I wanted to say in musical terms, so I was determined that Quartet No. 3 would feel different. The textures are perhaps lighter, the mood perhaps more relaxed, and the Quartet is not so long (a mere seventeen minutes).
There is no ‘programme’ to the work: it was written in the hope that it could be accepted on purely musical terms. The first movement is in a carefree idiom and takes a loose sonata form shape, with material from the opening section re-appearing in the later stages of the movement in a slightly different guise. The second movement begins as a cantilena – a slow melody with a broad and relatively simple accompaniment. This gives way (perhaps rather surprisingly) to a short and lively scherzo section before resuming its tread towards a calm closing cadence. The finale takes its inspiration from the witty finales in the string quartets of Haydn, although the sound world is quite different.
The Quartet is dedicated in loving memory of Helen L. J. Pitts SRN QA, and this dedication was made possible by a generous donation to Cancer Research UK in November 2010. It was given its première by the Wihan Quartet at the festival Proms at St. Jude’s in north London in 2011.
© Ronald Corp, 2012
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