Quattuor (1999)

Programme Note: John Buckley

Quattuor (Latin meaning four) was commissioned by the Dublin Youth Orchestras with the financial support of the Arts Council of Ireland. The work was completed on New Year’s Eve 1999 and received its first performance in the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght on April 9th 2000.

Composing for four Youth Orchestras ranging from Junior Strings to full Symphony Orchestra presents interesting challenges for a composer. Not least amongst these is the necessity of creating music appropriate to the technical ability of the players. Another challenge relates to the practical necessity of coordinating the four orchestras when they play together. In Quattuor I have attempted to provide a solution by giving each orchestra a movement on its own and three movements where the musical material is interspersed between the orchestras taking the spatial layout into account.

The seven movements are arranged as follows:

  1. Intrada (Junior, Intermediate, Transitional and Symphony Orchestras)
    Fanfares and swirling string scales are tossed back and forth between the orchestras to provide a dramatic and energetic opening to the work.

  2. Air and Dance (Junior Orchestra)
    A slow meditative air featuring two solo violins leads to a gently swaying dance. The slow air returns at the end.

  3. Scherzo (Transitional Orchestra)
    Syncopated rhythms and jazz-like harmonies in the opening and closing parts frame a slower and quieter middle section.

  4. Interlude (Intermediate, Transitional and Symphony Orchestras)
    This movement, for strings and percussion only, forms a quiet, mysterious centre to the whole work.

  5. Elegia (Intermediate Orchestra)
    Gently undulating melodic lines for strings and woodwind at the beginning and end are contrasted with a more emphatic middle section for the whole orchestra.

  6. Finale (Symphony Orchestra)
    The rhythmic and melodic motifs presented near the beginning of the movement are developed throughout. The character of this movement is bright and energetic.

  7. Coda (Junior, Intermediate, Transitional and Symphony Orchestras)
    The music of the Coda recaps the Intrada music.

Individual movements of Quattuor are dedicated to the four conductors Vanessa Sweeney (Air and Dance), Ronan O’Reilly (Scherzo), John Page (Elegia), John Finucane (Finale) and to the orchestras’ administrator, Carmel Ryan (Intrada).