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Track(s) taken from CDA66225

String Quartet No 11


Coull Quartet
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)
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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