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Five Portraits, for string quartet

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2021
5 min.

Cello

Viola

Violin

More Details

Program Notes
These five short portraits were written for the Solem Quartet to mark the election of composer Joseph Horovitz as Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford. The concert happened to come at the same time as Joseph’s 95th birthday and so these are as much a little birthday card from the college as anything else. All musical material in the piece derives from speech transcriptions I made of Joseph being interviewed by Royal College of Music Librarian Pamela Thompson and conductor John Wilson about his life and music. Two things Joseph said struck me and so I discerned their melodic and rhythmic content. The first quote sees him discuss his entry to New College in 1943 and the second was the revelation that after Oxford, ‘I paid for my studies with Boulanger with five portraits, which I did’. Clearly, this quote provided more than just musical material… He sold five portraits when he left New College so perhaps I can give him five back! The transcriptions of each piece of speech are below. The first concerning the entry to New College provides the material for portraits one, two and four, and is often used in retrograde. The second, about Boulanger and funnily enough in B major, is the basis of portraits three and five.
Ensemble Name
Solem Quartet

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