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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66225
Recording details: June 1986
St Augustine's Church, Penarth, Cardiff, Wales
Produced by Michael George
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: March 1988
Total duration: 25 minutes 4 seconds

'Superbly focused readings, recorded with the utmost presence' (The Independent)

'Few composers today write for string quartet so naturally as Robert Simpson … directly breathing the air of late Beethoven' (The Guardian)

It is this writer's unshakeable conviction that Simpson is probably today's greatest living exponent of absolute music anywhere in the world … If you haven't yet come to terms with Simpson, there's an enormous gap in your apprehension of 20th-century music' (Fanfare, USA)

'Music of conviction and integrity' (Musical America)

'Played grippingly by the Coull Quartet' (The New York Times)

String Quartet No 11

Allegro molto  [6'15]
Adagio  [6'22]

The Eleventh Quartet takes some of its material from its predecessor, but strongly contrasts with that work by treating the material in a more energetic way. Unlike the Tenth Quartet it is turbulent and extremely intense for much of its length though it, too, ends with a slow movement. The composer has commented that he was conscious of the influence of Beethoven's String Quartet Op 95, in which a fierce concentration of material makes room for later expansions. Simpson's Quartet is in a single movement and a basic tempo that remains unchanged throughout, but it has four clearly identifiable sections. Violent contrasts are tne essence of this work. The opening Allegro molto is a tightly constructed exposition of the main elements: the tritone, the major third, and the up-and-down chromatic twist from the Tenth Quartet. An intensely polyphonie Adagio follows, and a large virtuoso Scherzo creeps in upon it, opening out little by little into a movement of tremendous energy in which much use is made of upward-rushing scales. These scales, being in duple time, conflict with the prevailing fast Eroica-style triple rhythm, and greatly add to the excitement and feeling of headlong rush. The movement develops as if it is going to turn into a Finale, but suddenly, as the music seems to be reaching a frenetic and exhilarating climax, everything disappears, leaving only thin air in its place. The most extreme contrast in ine work is now projected, for the Quartet ends with a very slow section marked ppp throughout. The basic shapes and intervals of the earlier sections are still there, but all is now de-humanized, remote and static, and it slowly drifts away into silence.

from notes by Lionel Pike 1988

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