Dedication To the memory of Fausto Moroni
Commissioned by Naxos
2 violins, viola, cello
I. Broken Reel: Allegro
II. Slow Air and Rant: Adagio non troppo
III. Passamezzo Farewell: Adagio flessibile
IV. Deil Stick da Minister: Allegro
V. Hornpipe Unfinished: Allegro moderato
The big decision, upon facing the last of the quartets for Naxos Recordings, was whether this should be a grand finale or not. Although the former course was tempting – to make something even bigger than quartets nos. 6, 7 and 9 – I eventually decided to write a modest work, based on the Baroque suite, but with Scottish dances, rather than boures and allemandes.
After finishing the work, I realised that the real reason for this was that I did not wish to draw a thick black line at the conclusion – that in no way must this be a last quartet. I needed to leave the door open: I had enjoyed writing the Naxos Quartets so much, and perhaps even learned a thing or two, that more could, in theory, eventually flourish.
Another temptation was to refer to each of the previous quartets in a solemn farewell sequence, as I had done in the last of the ten Strathclyde Concertos for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra: this was firmly resisted. Although the third movement is entitled Passamezzo Farewell, there is no nostalgia – but there are backward-reaching references.
– the outline of the dance form is there, but its rhythms are fractured, with the ghost of a sonata shape hovering behind the baroque surface.
The second, very brief movement is a Slow Air and Rant. The Rant is based on a ‘real’ Scottish tune – the irony is blatant.
The Passamezzo Farewell is a more extended movement -a meditation not only on the nature of the Renaissance Passamezzo, but on ultimate mezza di passage.
Movement number four is again very brief -a sudden outburst, a summary of implications in the Passamezzo. The tune ‘Deil Stick da Minister’, composed anonymously when the Scottish Protestant Church was trying in vain to ban all dance music -_ is only quoted at the end. The finale is a hornpipe, in the more recent, post-Purcellian sense. When it becomes clear how the movement might finish, the resolution is left to the listener’s imagination: the dance is simply stopped, with a suspended gesture. This is not a finale – the hornpipe could lead straight back to the opening of Naxos Quartet No.1, or into something as yet unwritten. There is no double bar-line.
Peter Maxwell Davies 2007
Wigmore Hall, London
Tuesday, 16 October 2007