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String quartet No. 1 : The Key : The Key

by Derek Strahan (1980)

Audio Sample

Performance by John Gould, Irene Donohoe, Jane Hazlewood, David Pereira from the CD String quartet No. 1 (The key) ; Clarinet quintet No. 1 in D (The princess)

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String quartet no. 1


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String quartet no. 1 : 'The Key' / by Derek Strahan.

Library shelf no. 785.714/STR 1 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

The work is based on a musical cipher, La Octave Re Ninth A. The cipher is, musically, "The Key" to the work. It recurs constantly but in a constantly changing form. Only the last note (A) is of constant pitch. The other notes (as befits "sol-fa" designation) change pitch according to what (musical) key the work is in at the time. "The Key" is a variant on the "idée fixe" device invented by Hector Berlioz for his "Symphonie Fantastique" - a musical motif that keeps returning. The work is in 4 movements that play continuously. 1. "FEVER", "The Key" in settings of increasing heat. 2. "RHAPSODY", cyclic treatment of a rhapsodic theme. 3. LOVE-HOPE, Double theme & variations. "DANCE", cyclic treatment of a dance theme, leading to a Coda built on an unresolved conflict of (musical) keys.

Work Details

Year: 1980

Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello.

Duration: 26 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Rhythmically challenging

Contents note: 1. Fever -- 2. Rhapsody -- 3. Love-hope -- 4. Dance -- 5. Finish.

Dedication note: "For Lorna Key"

Commission note: Self-commissioned, but grateful thanks to John Gould for assembling the quartet of distinguished players to record this work. It was first released on LP with assistance from the Australia Council, then on CD.

The composer notes the following subjects, styles, genres etc associated with this work:
Berlioz, idée fixe, polymetric, polyphonic, melodic, compound harmony

"This work has been frequently broadcast since 1982, from tape, LP and now CD. It has never been performed live, not once in the last 18 years" -- Composer's note, 29.10.99.


String Quartet No. 1: the Key: 1st movt: Fever
String Quartet No. 1: The Key: Movt 2:' Rhapsody'
String Quartet No.1: The Key: 3rd movt: 'Love-Hope'
String Quartet No.1: The Key: 4th movt: 'Dance'

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