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Helen Grime

Publisher: Chester Music

String Quartet (2014)
Commissioned by the Edinburgh Quartet with financial support from Creative Scotland, PRS for Music Foundation, Britten-Pears Foundation, RVW Trust and Hope Scott Trust.
Work Notes
For the Edinburgh Quartet.
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
15 Minutes

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   Score and Part(s)

Programme Note
Helen Grime String Quartet (2014)
When I was approached to write a piece for the Edinburgh Quartet I was delighted- I had wanted to write a string quartet for quite some time and was waiting for the right time and opportunity to do so. The string quartet has one of the richest repertoire and history behind it, so for me, one of the main challenges was letting go of all those associations and approaching it like I would for any other combination. I am not a string player, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Although I’m constantly thinking of the technical challenges and making the music playable, not actually being able to play can be freeing, leading you to take musical risks that you might not take otherwise. I came to the string quartet after writing a lot of chamber music for strings, including two piano trios (a combination which I found equally daunting) and a string sextet.

This is the first piece I have completed since having my son, Samuel, last August. This has been an emotionally rich and creative time for me and although I started the piece (about a minute or so) when pregnant, most has been written this year. I’m unsure if this has affected the piece or not, but interestingly the form of the piece (which was quite carefully planned beforehand) underwent quite a huge change when I began composing again.

The piece is in three movements, but they all run together without a break, the material of the new movement overlapping with the end of the previous one. My music tends to be very organic generally and this is very much true of the quartet. The speeds of each movement are very closely related to create seamless links between ideas and there are also very strong links between the musical material in each movement. To some extent, I imagined the piece in one long movement and I think this will come over to the listener.

The first movement opens with a fast duo for violin II and viola- different pairings are a feature of the piece in general-and ends with a duo for violin I and cello. The second movement is by far the longest of the three and the third movement is a sort of moto perpetuo, featuring virtuoso writing for each instrument.

  • 25 SEP 2014
    Cowdray Hall, Aberdeen, UK
    Edinburgh Quartet
  • 07 JUN 2014
    Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
    Edinburgh Quartet
  • 21 MAY 2014
    String Quartet World Premiere
    Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, UK
    Edinburgh String Quartet

This continuous three-movement work is a triumph of concision – the masterful art of creating long-term meaning out of fertile nuclear ideas. These ideas develop through a series of duos, the cello and first violin interacting with, and counteracting, the other two players in what Bartok would have called “a game of couples”. But it’s the seamless unwinding of the music – the powerful sense of ebb and flow in which temperatures soar and subside with febrile intensity, together with the Edinburgh Quartet’s hot, incisive performance – that gives this charismatic piece its impulsive theatricality.
Kenneth Walton, The Scotsman,21/05/2014
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