String Quartet No.1:
I. Allegro con fuoco
The first movement of my String Quartet No.1 was performed in France on 29th, at the Théâtre Municipal d’Épinal (Lorraine) and 30th of August at the La Nef Saint Dié (Saint-Dié-des-Vosges).
This concert was part of a music festival taking place during the summer, in Lorraine (France).
I had the opportunity to meet the musical director of the festival, Catherine Verbregghe, here in Lisbon when she was on holiday. We talked about the festival, about the album I’m writing and also of how hard it is to find sheet music from Portuguese composers of the classical era like João Domingos Bomtempo or Carlos Seixas.
The work initially chosen by Catherine to be played at the festival was my Adagio Lamentoso, a piece for string orchestra and harp dedicated to Gustav Mahler. However, several weeks later, she told me that due to logistic constraints it would difficult to play the Adagio and asked me to send her the first movement of my string quartet, to be played instead.
The String Quartet No.1, in E flat, is divided into four movements and is written in the musical language and form of the romantic period. The first two movements, the Allegro con fuoco and the Scherzo, are finished, and I hope to write the remaining two after finishing composing and recording my new album (that’s the priority for now!).
Writing a string quartet can be one of those frightful moments as a composer, some of us like it, others really hate it!
The challenge of writing a string quartet is enormous, the balance between the instruments has to be right, you need to know very well the characteristics of the instruments and, above all, the counterpoint must be exquisite so that the different melodic lines and phrases can be distinctive and perfectly heard.
Having already written some works for large orchestras, like the Brazilian Rhapsody or the Hollywood Suite, I maybe find writing a string quartet a more demanding task mostly due to the reasons mentioned above.
The first movement, Allegro con fuoco, that was premiered in France, is written in a sonata form with its different sections well defined and perceivable. I wanted to start the movement with a joyful theme that would set the pace for the rest of the movement and, at the same time, would allow me to transform it into several rhythmic and melodic variations without losing its power to catch the listener attention.
One of my favorite’s variations is the one that starts the development section, with the main theme presented in the tonality of C sharp minor. This change to a minor mode, adds something new to the theme and together with the renovated counterpoint makes this passage one of my favorites!
The final coda, starting at bar XX until bar XX maybe it is my favorite passage. Here, you can listen at the same time and distributed by the different instruments, all the themes that appeared before in the movement. Yes, it was a passage that gave me some trouble to write but I was very pleased with the result.
Enough of words, you can listen below a rough mockup of this movement. I’ll hope to share later with you the live recording of the Allegro con fuoco.