for string quartet

Richard Birchall

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for string quartet

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Composer Richard Birchall

Year of Composition


, ,


ca. 10'

Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-rb3h1


Hands is based on the game of Contract Bridge. Each quartet member takes the role of a card-player, and each of the four suits is allocated its own theme – with an additional rhythmic motif to represent ‘No Trumps’.

The piece is divided into three stages. The first, ‘Pairing and Dealing’, takes the majority of its material from the No Trumps theme and follows the pattern of preparation for the game. The second stage covers the bidding process, and introduces themes for Clubs and Diamonds (as well as No Trumps), expanding the themes either texturally or intervallically to reflect the magnitude of the bid. The third stage, ‘Tricks’, consists of fifty-two bars: four-bar blocks for each of the thirteen tricks of the game, with one card played in each bar by the appropriate player. All five themes are now active, and through this final section the time signature is methodically reduced to show the number of  cards remaining in the players’ hands, and the extent of choice available to them. The amount of each theme stated in each bar defines the face value of the card played.