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Although Rutland Boughton is rightly admired as an operatic composer, he contributed generously to virtually every musical genre from symphony to song. The two string quartets were written at the height of his popularity in 1923 and are works of much charm. The descriptive titles, of the individual movements as well as of the quartets themselves, do not so much present a 'programme' as suggest, in Boughton's words, 'the emotional pleasure one has in natural beauty of a certain kind'. The quartets were first performed at The Aeolian Hall, the advertisement stating that the concerts were 'not for high-brows, but for the general musical public who still believe in the common-chord and an occasional tune'.
In many ways the Songs without Words can be regarded as a second oboe quartet and are charming miniatures. Boughton had a particular love for the oboe (his daughter Joy was the instrument's leading exponent in England at the time) and this is reflected in his compositions.