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