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4 (mere) Bagatelles

For string quartet

2007, 5 minutes

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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.

Rian Evans, The Guardian.

Performance Notes

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.

Key Performances

World Premiere - Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts 2007


Venue: St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, UK

Performers: Psophos Quartet