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Suite for String Quartet

for string quartet

Year:  2009 Instrumentation:  two violins, viola and cello

Year:  2009
Instrumentation  two violins, viola and cello

Composer:   Chris Gendall

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Chris Gendall: Suite for St...

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Chris Gendall: Suite for St...

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Sample Score

Sample: first two pages of each movement

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Suite for String Quartet was commissioned by Christopher Marshall through the 2009 SOUNZtender project of the Centre for New Zealand Music. The commission was originally intended for a solo instrument but Christopher had an interesting starting point in mind for the piece: a work for string quartet with a series of movements inspired by four stylistic models from moments in music history: chant, gigue, tango and the music of the second Viennese School. Each movement would feature (either solo or concertante-style) a member of the quartet.

I approached Suite for String Quartet with a level of abstraction to the styles in question. It is less a series of imitations than an exposition of certain distinctive elements of each style. I found myself inspired (at different points in the process) by acoustic, harmonic, rhythmic, structural and emotional properties of these styles. Each of the four movements feature a particular player (cello, violin II, viola and violin I, in that order) – but the other three also play in each movement.

Calling the piece Suite for String Quartet is reflective of the 'baroque' approach to each movement, inspired by the Bach cello suites. The movement titles are: I: Canto; II: Scorrevole; III: Tango; IV: Bagatelle I like the double meaning of 'canto' – meaning both 'voice' and a poetic unit of measurement, and the ubiquitous association of the word 'bagatelle' with Webern and Schoenberg. 'Scorrevole' in a musical context usually means 'florid' or 'swiftly unfolding'.

Suite for String Quartet was composed in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, with financial support from Creative New Zealand. Its movements are dedicated to the members of the New Zealand String Quartet.

   Chris Gendall, 2010

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Christopher Marshall as part of the SOUNZtender Project

Contents note

I. Canto
II. Scorrevole
III. Tango
IV. Bagatelle

Performance history