Naxos Quartet No. 6 was written in December 2004 and January 2005. It is an ambitious work of six movements - a counterbalance in the cycle of ten quartets to the relatively slight fourth and fifth.
I have recently been studying again Beethoven's late quartets, and, although I am well aware that I could never aspire to write work remotely approaching such a model, I trust these studies show through positively in the present work.
The first movement is an allegro whose tonality becomes ever clearer, or, rather, relationships are gradually exposed between chords which will be more fully explored and fleshed out later.
The second movement, based on an Advent plainsong, is entitled Domica Tertia Adventus, Antiphona, and is a short scherzo and trio, in pizzicato.
The third movement is a second scherzo, with trio, of a more substantial nature, though still quite brief. The return of the scherzo material is varied, and prepares the listener for the fourth movement.
The fourth movement is an adagio contrasting sections of warm lyricism with a more dramatic and dissonant central section. Towards the end, each instrument has a recitative, during which the other three players hold sustained chords: the last bars of the movement are the first in the Naxos Quartets to have a key-signature, of four flats, for F minor.
It was Christmas Day when I wrote the fifth movement, before movements three and four, and it is based on a Christmas plainsong, and becomes a simple carol.
The finale is quick, and takes up again material from the first movement, expanding and transforming this.
The Quartet is dedicated to Alexander Goehr.