Piano Quartet

for violin, viola, cello and piano

Anthony Payne

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for violin, viola, cello and piano

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Composer Anthony Payne
Year of Composition 2014
Duration -
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-ap1pq1


Like many of my pieces, this Piano Quartet is laid out in one continuous movement, re-organising and re-shaping many of the devices and processes of traditional symphonic structures – but within a post-tonal context. Some of my chamber (and indeed orchestral) pieces draw their material from extra-musical sources, like A Day in the Life of a Mayfly, but the Piano Quartet is a piece of music pure and simple, even if its evolutionary growth can be distantly related to natural processes. This, after all, is probably true of most music. Its opening section is expository, introducing each of the four instruments in turn. The violin opens with a busy line over punctuating piano chords. Soon this thread is passed to the viola while the violin spins a calmer line, and then the cello continues with viola as well as violin in support. The section closes as the piano, released from its chordal duties, is at last able to assert its individuality with newly energetic hopping and dancing phrases, above rustling strings. In the next section this material is extended, and, as each instrument is given prominence in its turn (shadowing the exposition’s behavior) a more obvious lyricism begins to emerge. The piano, for instance, can at last exploit the harmonic richness of which it is capable, and this encourages the strings to generate some richly chordal phrases of their own.

The work’s central span is reached as the strings unfold a long sequence of slowly shifting harmonies, with occasional pillars of sound from the piano. More development ensues, which leads to the Quartet’s boldest melodic arch, where violin, and then viola and cello in octaves, sing a new song above the keyboard’s sonorous accompaniment. A review of the section’s opening sequence of harmonies dies away and leads to the Coda. Here, a new world is revealed, as fleet demi-semiquavers in three octaves of strings race for the work’s horizon. Tiny references to earlier events arrest the progress, and the music finally sinks to a point which is just out of sight and hearing.