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Barry Anderson’s music was firmly based in the post-Webern idiom, dissonant but elegantly crafted with brilliant computer generated sounds. He was refined, urbane and dapper. Tomasz Sikorski was not. He was well known as a difficult character. His personal life and his music were battlefields with considerable collateral damage. His musical idiom was minimalism but in his hands repetition was more to bludgeon than to entertain.
String Quartet No 1 'In memoriam …' is based on a metaphor of ‘white noise’ as the Life’s last breath and uses short thematic and harmonic material from each composers’ works: Barry Anderson’s ARC (1987) and Tomasz Sikorski’s Holzwege (1972) for orchestra. The opening bars of Holzwege (‘Paths to Nowhere’) are quoted in the closing bars of the quartet.
Although the work was premiered by The Mistry Quartet in 1989 it underwent considerable change and development with the numerous subsequent performances by The Smith Quartet. Their performances culminated in the composer’s final version which they premiered at London’s South Bank Centre in 1993. The work was recorded a few weeks later during a late night session in a lonely north London church. About half way through the session a body was delivered which lay in state just in front of them flickering in pale candlelight.
from notes by Stephen Montague © 2007