String Quintet in F minor

The String Quintet in F minor is cast in two movements, Prologue and Contrapunctus. The bipartite over-arching super-structure is reminiscent of a prelude and fugue from the Baroque period, but the harmonic language is somewhat removed from the diatonic major and minor traditional tonalities that the antique nomenclature would imply.

The Prologue opens the piece with a series of contemplative onomotopaeic gestures that create an atmosphere of contemporary angst, or a degree of low-level anxiety that describe the experience that accompanies a visit to a doctor’s office in of anticipation some undiagnosed ailment and its attendant unspecified treatment. The Prologue brings us somewhat unwittingly into a stark confrontation with the Contrapunctus. As it exists in this Quintet, the Contrapunctus is essentially a distillation of the fugue embedded in the Concerto for Alto Saxophone, with the tonal geometry freed from the necessary soloistic treatment demanded by a concerto style of composition. A purer imitative contrapuntal texture emerges consisting of five equal voices that maintain an enhanced integrated linear independence and motivic balance. As the music unfolds through successive episodes of the polyphonic dialogue, it reveals a subliminal harmonic cosmology that permeates the Quintet.

The Quintet is expressive of a dark period in the composer’s life and reflects some of the tribulations that are symptomatic of anxiety and depression. Music, being a language that is expressive of emotion may sometimes act therapeutically as a catalyst in exorcising bad thoughts or feelings, and it is to be hoped that the opposite effect is not achieved, that of conjuring up evil through the interpretative action of musical performance.

String Quintet in F minor

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  • This includes the Program Notes as a separate PDF, and the PDF musical score file.