Hitchcock and Herrmann were to have a dramatic falling out over the music for Torn Curtain
(1966), an abrasive unorthodox score when Hitchcock had insisted on something popular and appealing. (Feeling his score improved the film, Herrmann had grumbled: ‘You want a doctor to make you well—you don’t also expect him to make you rich.’) Trends in film scoring were moving away from his individualistic style to a preference for melodies that were commercially exploitable. Perhaps in reaction to this trend, he wrote his first concert work for 14 years, the String Quartet Echoes
, which he described as ‘a series of nostalgic emotional remembrances.’ A beautiful, brooding opening theme establishes a melancholy tone (it might not be coincidental that Herrmann was going through a second painful divorce during the work’s composition) and it will recur as an interlude before each part of the score, binding together the flickering changes of mood and style. It is a deeply personal work: there are echoes of his own music and personality that could have come from no-one else. A sad waltz echoes the ‘Memory Waltz’ from Snows of Kilimanjaro
(1953); a habanera rhythm fleetingly recalls the music for James Stewart’s obsessed spying on Kim Novak in the art gallery scene in Vertigo
; a macabre scherzo is like those ‘rides in hell’ at which Herrmann excelled in numerous films, just as the Allegro momentarily has something of the violence of Psycho
. The work was premiered in December 1966 and also accompanied a 1971 Royal Ballet performance for two dancers called ‘Ante-Room’. There are few more haunting and accessible works in the modern string quartet repertory.
from notes by Neil Sinyard © 2011