About The Music

In the performers’ words

The quartet members share their thoughts in response to the music that they are performing in the ANAM Quartetthaus.

Music from Australia

Alice CHANCE Nose Scrunch Reel

This glorious homage to Irish fiddling will have you scrunching your nose with delight. The deliciously dirty harmonies coupled with the toe tapping rhythms make this playful miniature one not to miss! 

… raucous, cheeky,  slightly psychedelic, playful …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Brett DEAN String Quartet no. 3 Hidden Agendas

Dramatic tour-de-force exploring political dialogue and dilemma, brought to life by the interaction between four players. Brett’s words: “a response to extreme personalities - twitter outrage, group-think, and other challenges to the democratic process in which we seem to find ourselves as we enter the 2020s.”

… hubris, retreat, self-censorship, on message …

Performed by the Affinity String Quartet


Ross EDWARDS Chorale and Ecstatic Dance

This work is almost hypnotic in the chorale, with an improvisatory melody centred around the interval of an open fifth in the cello. An ecstatic dance constantly swings between being in two and three beats, creating a dynamic pendulum effect. 

… pensive, contemplative, playful, dynamic, brilliant …

Performed by the Marmen String Quartet


Jack FRERER Spiral Sequences

Spiral Sequences is a work in two movements. The first is frantic and pulse-driven, carried by momentum generated by spiralling patterns and obsessive ostinatos. It presents fragments of a sequence, one which is played in its complete form at the beginning of a longer, introspective second movement. 

… agitated, gripping, contrast, inward, calm …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Alfred HILL String Quartet no. 3 Carnival

The composer’s own words sum up best the journey this fun-filled quartet takes us on: 

“First, the gaily lit streets are thronged with people, watching the preparations for the carnival; second, a lone student ponders on the more serious things in life; third, dancing and games on the green; and finally, the carnival!”

… fun, spectacle, prayer, energetic, carnival …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Miriam HYDE String Quartet in E Minor

Picturesque and playful, Miriam Hyde’s love of poetry and lyricism is evident through the grand musical arcs and resplendent harmony in this quartet. The epic finale sees all four musicians playing in perfect unison, that culminates in an emotional outburst.

… pastoral, dramatic, poignant, evocative, lively …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Matt LAING In Perpetuum

In Perpetuum responds to David Whyte’s concept of maturity as a continuous act of self-actualising recognition. In Matt’s words: “An abstract still life in perpetual motion, where even the smallest, stillest things have a hyperactive inner life.” 

… episodic, textural, continuous, ethereal, pulsating …

Performed by the Affinity String Quartet


Matt  LAING Space Exploration

Be transported to another world through Matt Laing’s exquisite work Space Exploration. This ethereal work uses extraordinary techniques to create an atmospheric soundscape that carries us to the far reaches of our universe.

… atmospheric, delicate, evocative, fleeting, soundscape …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Liza  LIM The Weaver’s Knot
Held in place by tension, the weavers knot is an incredibly strong yet easily reversible knot used in textiles. Using the same concept each instrument acts as a ‘sonic thread’ seamlessly binding and then un-weaving from each other.

… explorative, shocking, grating, interwoven, tension …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Richard MEALE Cantilena Pacifica

This is a beautiful and reflective work. The lower three voices play an oscillating, wave-like texture underneath a soaring and singing melody in the first violin. 

… meditative, trance-like, peaceful, tranquil, relaxing …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Kate MOORE TranscenDance

A unique blend of folk music and minimalism, these catchy yet somehow smudged rhythms create a timeless soundworld that builds to a dramatic and inevitable climax. 

… magnetic, hypnotic, catchy, folky, driving …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Peter SCULTHORPE String Quartet no. 8

Sculthorpe is quintessentially Australian, one of the pioneers of drawing inspiration from indigenous Australian music and the natural landscape. However, in this quartet he looks to the rice-pounding music of Bali. Metric strictness is contrasted with static, ritualistic qualities in this atmospheric work. 

… soulful, rhythmic, driven, elusive, percussive …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Peter SCULTHORPE String Quartet no. 11  Jabiru Dreaming

Sculthorpe’s inspiration from the indigenous music of the Kakadu area in northern Australia is particularly evident in the rhythmic patterns in the first movement. The second movement draws inspiration from an Aboriginal chant, this trance-like character being an overarching feature throughout the piece. The title Jabiru Dreaming refers to a sacred rock formation in the Kakadu National Park.

… nature, chant, birdsong, relaxing, happiness …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Harry SDRAULIG Swirl

The single tempo of this dramatic miniature undergoes multiple rhythmic metamorphoses, which build up towards a dramatic, and in some way inevitable conclusion. Immerse yourself in the spinning textures and swirling sound worlds of the Swirl

… fire, spinning, vertigo, dramatic, groove …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Paul STANHOPE String Quartet no. 3 From the Kimberley

This extraordinary work explores the story of Jandamarra, a Bunuba man and flawed hero who pays for his heroism with his life, yet is recognised for all he has saved. The journey from the edgy first movement to the searing laments of the last is one towards a brighter future that somehow lays beyond the horizon – not quite present, yet possible. 

… claustrophobic, outpouring, epic, narrative, searing …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Jack SYMONDS Quartet no. 2

This ground-breaking new work, proudly commissioned by the ASQ in 2022 for the ANAM Quartetthaus Season, is a tour-de-force of instrumental virtuosity and compositional rigour. Symonds’ understanding of the sonic texture of a single instrument and the combined power of a string quartet is evident in every note. The music comprises rapidly repeating cells and ideas that dance their way through scherzos and intense slow moments.

… original, virtuosic, paradoxical, metamorphic, inventive …

Performed by the Australian String Quartet

Jack Symonds’ quartet was commissioned by the Australian String Quartet for the ANAM Quartetthaus season, through the Australian String Quartet Richard Divall Australian Music Fund


Nigel WESTLAKE String Quartet no. 3, Sacred Sky

Sacred Sky is dedicated to the memory of Nigel’s sister Kate, who lost her battle with cancer in 2018. The titles of each movement are taken from four of Kate’s seascape paintings, which are studies in the reflection, scattering and radiance of light and shadow. This poignant and evocative score is imbued with themes of beauty, energy, soulfulness and transcendence. 

… textural, vivid, cinematic, poignant, colourful …

Performed by the Australian String Quartet


Music from the United Kingdom

Thomas ADÈS Arcadiana

The brilliant, elusive, fantastical world of Thomas Adès is illuminated in a most evocative collection of seven movements for string quartet, Arcadiana. Vanishing visions of the idyll–a Utopian world of natural splendour, both aquatic and pastoral–are conjured by an intricate and highly original string soundscape.

… introspective, evocative, tumultuous, elusive, transient …

Performed by the Australian String Quartet


Sally BEAMISH Nine Fragments – String Quartet no. 4

A response to Robert Schumann’s first string quartet, Sally Beamish describes each of the Nine Fragments as “tilting a broken mirror toward a particular passage in Schumann’s work.”

… brief, gestural, haunting, emotional, tinnitus …

Performed by the Affinity String Quartet


Benjamin BRITTEN Rhapsody for String Quartet 

The warm nostalgic writing in Britten’s Rhapsody is incredibly mature for a composer of just 15. Written whilst Britten was at boarding school learning composition with Frank Bridge. The tightly woven textures and exquisite melodies belie the exciting voice of the 20th century Britten was to become. 

… nostalgic, warm, intense, distilled, viola! …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Benjamin BRITTEN Three Divertimenti for String Quartet 

Composed when Britten was still in his early 20’s, the Three Divertimenti are a sharp, youthful and brilliant set of character pieces. At times reflective and brooding, they cleverly showcase a breadth of musical tone and texture that would come to fruition in his three masterful string quartets.

… playful, youthful, fresh, exuberant , frivolous …

Performed by the Australian String Quartet


Benjamin BRITTEN String Quartet no. 1 

Anyone who has been to the south coast of England–Britten’s homeland and, in many ways, his muse–will be familiar with the slow breath of the waves on the shore, the sound of millions of pebbles cascading against each other as the English Channel breathes in and out. In his first string quartet, Britten contrasts these meditative moments with sparkling conversation articulated by virtuosic writing that bounces between the instruments and speaks of a new world, the California coastline, where this piece was written. 

… sparkling, meditative, conversational, ricochet, breath …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Benjamin BRITTEN String Quartet no. 2 

An homage to 17th Century composer Henry Purcell, this quartet reflects Britten’s voice to be both new and familiar, with confronting polyphony and soothing, caressing melodies; this is quartet writing that is in equal measure brash, flamboyant, profound, and earnest.

… nostalgic, inextinguishable, architectural, intricate, surprising …

Performed by the Australian String Quartet


Rebecca CLARKE Poem for String Quartet
This petite but poignant work features meandering lines traversing amongst each other and together creating a dreamy atmosphere. The work builds to a passionate climax before dissipating into a feel of a distant memory.

… passionate, lonely, cozy, dreamy, tranquil …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Anna CLYNE A Woman Holding a Balance 

Originally conceived to accompany Jyll Bradley and David Ward’s film of the same name, Woman Holding a Balance is a meditative reflection on light, colour, and the cyclical nature of time itself. 

… meditation, light, darkness, blossom, still …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Fantasiestücke for String Quartet op. 5 

Composed in 1895, these five character-movements embody a folk influence with flavours of Dvořák. Each movement unfolds as a perfect miniature, the entire work being like a selection of delicious petite desserts. 

… stormy, pastorale, cheeky, graceful, capricious …

Performed by the Marmen String Quartet


Edward ELGAR String Quartet in E Minor 

For a generation of musicians who lived through the terrors of the First World War, responding to the incomprehensible impact of the conflict transformed into a compelling creative challenge. Although Elgar's initial response to the war had been to engage energetically in creating patriotic music, the events had a profound effect on his later work. By now it is impossible to separate his remarkable string quartet from the historical circumstances surrounding its creation. 

… animated, sorrow, sunshine, nostalgic, turbulent …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Imogen HOLST Phantasy Quartet

This work, composed when Imogen Holst was just 20, holds all the characteristics of the English pastorale style. There is a focus on modal sonority, somewhat similar to the great impressionists, and the influence of England’s favourite Vaughan Williams is undeniable. Allow this transformative work to transport you to the serenity of the English countryside. 

… pastorale, passion, generosity, tranquillity, atmospheric …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


Hannah KENDALL How ruin nested inside each thimbled throat / and made it sing  

The tile of the work comes from the poem by Ocean Vuong, written in response to the murder of Michael Humphrey and Clayton Capshaw by immolation in Dallas Texas, in 2011. Hannah Kendall utilises string quartet’s expressive possibilities to their full potential, creating sounds never before created on string instruments. 

… dark, haunting, spine-tingling, graphic, eerie …

Performed by the Marmen String Quartet

Hannah Kendall’s quartet was commissioned by ANAM for the ANAM Quartetthaus season


Elizabeth MACONCHY String Quartet no. 3
Elizabeth Maconchy explores in musical terms the idea of complicated family relationships. The quartet is a short and utterly argumentative work that showcases intense and emotionally fraught material with combative rhythmic interjections. 

… intense, combative, dark, cosmic, haunting …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Elizabeth MACONCHY String Quartet no. 13 

“Quartet Corto” – a short quartet. This does little to explain the extraordinary world created by Maconchy in just 8 minutes. One of the finest English composers of the 20th century, she was attracted less by the beatific world of English pastoralism and more by the folky, edgy domain of Eastern European composers such as Bartók and Janáček. 

… edgy, folky, arresting, scrunchy, jagged …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Henry PURCELL Fantasia VI in F Major
Purcell’s Fantasias are short baroque pieces that feature harmony and counter-point in vogue during the 17th century. Four voices seemingly endlessly pouring out joyous melodies meld together as one. 

… pure, relaxing, dancing, flowing, dynamic …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet


Henry PURCELL  Fantasia XI in G Major

Long after the viol consort had become unfashionable, Purcell used this beautiful ensemble as the vehicle for this fantastical Fantasia. Dancing, lamenting, crying, and suddenly being playful, the work transports the listener simultaneously into the future and the past

… lamenting, dancing, wailing, playful, reverent …

Performed by the Alkyona String Quartet


Michael TIPPETT String Quartet no. 2 in F-sharp Minor

Michael Tippett was an ardent pacifist, who argued that music was his most constructive contribution to the society. The theme of the second movement was written as a response to the Munich Agreement of 1938. The composer fleshed it out into the full quartet in 1942. Tippett invokes a wide range of moods across the work, from energetic and dramatic to still and reflective. 

… momentum, dance, lyrical, searching, madrigals …

Performed by the Oriole String Quartet


William WALTON String Quartet in A Minor no. 2

Walton’s string quartet is as grand and demanding a work as the genre suggests. Starting from a place of beauty and loneliness, the music transports the listener through fierce arguments, church-like chorales, and a flurry to finish. 

… grand, enigmatic, exhilarating, precise, juxtaposing …

Performed by the Artamidae Quartet

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