String Quartet - David Sumbler

The String Quartet was composed in 1975, and originally consisted of four movements. When, a few years later, the piece was arranged for string orchestra, it was felt that the second movement would not adapt well for the medium, so a new movement was substituted. This, rewritten for four solo stringed instruments, now forms the third movement of the quartet.

Although the tempo of the first movement is only Allegro non troppo, the movement has a wild, headlong character, particularly in the first subject. Open strings are used freely, where applicable, to give harshness. The piece should sound rather "mentally unhinged".

The second movement is a very fast scherzo,, whilst the third consists of a jig alternating with a slower, graceful dance; these are adapted from incidental music, written in 1978, for Milton's Comus, and were danced by "swains and rustics".

The main tempo of the fourth movement is extremely slow. The piece should be played indulgently, with an exaggerated espressivo, luxuriating in every dissonance and with a mood of extreme grief. Alice could hear the Mock Turtle sighing as if his heart would break. She pitied him deeply. "What is his sorrow?" she asked the Gryphon, and the Gryphon answered, "It's all his fancy that: he hasn't got no sorrow, you know." (Lewis Carroll)

The final movement is in a variety of tempi, and refers back at times to the first and fourth movements. The extract below is taken from this final movement.

Please note that although the image below shows the actual layout of a page of the score, it does not reflect the quality of the printed version. This is because the image on your computer screen reproduces the original at only 72 pixels (dots) per inch, with the result that slurs are jagged, stave lines are not equally spaced, and the appearance is generally crude. The actual printed version is produced using laser printers at over 34 million dots per page, resulting in complete smoothness and evenness in the quality of the print.

String Quartet - sample