Matthew Brown Composer


String quintet quasi variazioni

April 2016 saw the premiere of my new string quintet, which I composed at the start of the year for the Leon Quartet to play with our friend and colleague, Lucia D’Avanzo-Lewis.

We performed it as the concluding piece in an afternoon concert at St Thomas More R C Church in West Malling, having played Mozart’s Quintet number four in G minor K 516 (1787) and Bruckner’s String Quintet in F (1878-1879). We were faced with the challenge of listening to each other and performing as an ensemble in an acoustic of extraordinary resonance but this suited the program perfectly and I think that we all responded to the challenges exceptionally well.

When Lucia invited me to compose a work to be played in the same concert as Mozart and Bruckner, I was presented with my own compositional challenge. Above all, I wanted to write differently to Mozart and Bruckner but make it work. The resulting composition was also for two violins, two violas and a cello.

Taking inspiration from the bells that chime from my local church, my variations for string quintet reflect a joyous quality. The music begins and ends in E major, the same key as Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with a theme that begins in the first violin and reappears in various forms. Each variation is a subtle progression from the previous, gradually developing texturally and harmonically. A build in urgency leads to a joyous reprise of the first theme, with the all parts intertwined in countermelody. The following coda is subdued, but not without light and colour from the weaving muted strings. Finally, the church bells resound again in the form of harmonics, before ending with a final flourish.