String Quartet No.4

for two violins, viola and cello

Jeremy Pike

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for two violins, viola and cello

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Composer Jeremy Pike
Year of Composition 1976
Duration ca.14'
Instrumentation Violoncello, 2 Violins, Viola
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-jp2sq4


This single movement work is the fourth of Jeremy Pike’s six string quartets. He began composing it in 1975 at the age of 19, when he was in his final year studying music at King’s College, Cambridge. He completed it in 1976, and it was subsequently awarded the university composition prize for chamber music. It received a special mention as one of two runners up for the international Clements Prize in 1977. The quartet comprises seven contrasting sections, each highlighting one step in the descending scale of C harmonic minor. Thus in the first section the step C to B is used as an answering phrase to the main theme, in the second an ostinato is formed by the step B to G sharp (the enharmonic equivalent of A flat), and so on, with each section reflecting the varying degrees of intensity evoked by each step of the scale. A fivenote cell of C, Eb, E, A Bb forms the basis of the work.

There are two principal themes: “A” appears in the second violin at the opening, imitated by the viola in inversion, “B” is the rising viola idea which starts the second section. The third section combines these in an agitated development of both themes, making extensive use of contrary motion. Sections 4 to 6 are recapitulatory, section 4 using a rhythmic retrograde of “A” but in the form of section 2, whilst providing some lighter material. Section 5 is an expressive adagio, using the “B” theme treated in the form of the opening section. Section 6 is an intensified version of section 3, in which the music reaches its climax before leading seamlessly to the final section which forms a coda to the work. Here the “A” theme appears in augmentation as the music gradually winds down to a desolate conclusion.