Joe Duddell’s Four (mere) Bagatelles had a wonderful clarity and assurance, expressed most tellingly in the chords of the
third bagatelle, which reached a positively serene acquiescence.
As with my last (and thus far only) foray into the string quartet medium the spectre of an immense and impressive historical
cannon of works loomed large. In Arbor Low I had the welcome distraction of a poet to work with which produced a context
in which to work. However, this time I was on my own. Luckily only a smallish piece was required so this led me to look at
the Stravinsky 3 pieces and the Webern Bagatelles. Having found some inspiration from the relative sparseness of these
works I then decided that I would take one aspect from a number of well-known pieces from the canon (including ones that
I knew would be in this concert) and use those as starting points. So instead of being afraid of these masterworks, they
became the raw material – cheeky perhaps, but not uncommon amongst composers.
The first movement draws on Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ quartet, the second on Stravinsky’s 3 Pieces, the third draws upon
Debussy’s quartet and the Beethoven A minor as does the final movement which in tone and mood has reflections of
Tippett – whose own quartets are criminally overlooked too much of the time. The fun in writing this piece came from how
obvious or not I decided to make the references at certain points. It would be a mini quartet-spotters quiz if you like if I had
not given you all the answers already. I also wanted to write a quartet that could be played by young quartets who are
perhaps interested in new repertoire but not quite ready to tackle the new-complexity composers!
The (mere) in the title is an old family joke concerning my late Grandad’s favourite expression when he had won at cards
or Monopoly. The piece is dedicated to his memory.
World Premiere - Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts 2007
Venue: St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, UK