String quartets

Solos and Shadows (composed in Rome, 1983) is about the individual and the mass, the melody and the chorus or – in a memorable phrase of the composer ‘whispers and shouts’. And it's about how these opposing entities can deceptively change about, the one suddenly becoming the other. Throughout most of the quartet there are constant changes - or rather, interruptions of mood, colour and tempo; before a final section which, Beethoven-style, carries the music away in a breathlessly fast tempo.

In Surrounded by Scales, the question is: what is being surrounded? We'll never quite know he answe: - something formless, amorphous. It’s like a debate between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, yet going far beyond a technical exercise. We're talking about a surreal object, like a wrapped Christou sculpture, or Dali’s ‘lobster telephone’. Only here it’s familiar things, all the scales and patterns, which seem to become more and more manic and strange.

There are four concise movements: the first in a moderate tempo which accommodates both slow (the surrounded) and fast (the surrounding) music; the second a ‘calm prestissimo’; the third a melancholic berceuse whose tempo threatens to break up altogether; the fourth — back to the original tempo, with the ‘surrounding’ now becoming all but total. Just here and there is still a glimpse of the undefeated ‘surrounded’, growing - as the composer says - ”through the clasp of scales like a weed through a brick wall”.

Solos and Shadows

Surrounded by Scales

Dacapo, 1990