ComposerDavid Stoll
ArtistBingham String Quartet
InstrumentsViolin, Violin, Viola and Cello
LabelPrima Facie
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Picture of First movement of String Quartet 4 (SPACES IN A SPACE) - the secret in the clay

The first idea for this quartet came from a remark made to me by the potter Emmanuel Cooper in October 2003 at a private showing of his work.He said, only half-seriously, "You should write a piece of music to go with an exhibition of pots".

This comment stayed with me, and when I embarked upon writing my fourth String Quartet I decided to take up the idea.At first I thought to write an ambient piece for an exhibition space, accompanying the experience of viewing the pots, as it were.But gradually more formal musical considerations seemed necessary as I wanted the piece to stand as a concert work in its own right.

From then on I became interested - as so often in my chamber music writing - in combining the purely musical and the programmatic in a way honest to both.I started to reflect on the overall story of the ceramics and decided on a structure which begins with the clay on the wheel (Movement I) follows through the firing in the kiln (Movement II) and only then explores the exhibition of the finished pots (Movement III).

As it turned out, the musical forms became interesting in their own right, revealing the close relationship between the different parts of the potting process: in particular the elements of earth, water, fire, air and space and the defining role of the wheel throughout.In fact, the musical material is very highly integrated, almost all deriving from one musical idea, the sound of the early morning bells from the church next to the hotel in Venice where I was staying in April 2004.

Because of other work, the piece took a long time to complete, being finished at the start of April 2005.During the year, however, I thought about this music constantly and explored the ideas in various ways, including visiting Emmanuel at work and even attending a class in throwing a pot in order to have the personal experience of growing the clay on a wheel.

The first Movement presents the clay on the wheel, gradually being pressed and teased into shape and, at the right magical moment, being raised to its full stature. The Movement ends with a very abstract expression of the finished pot.The second Movement, a scherzo, takes place in the heat of the furnace where the different musical motifs are drawn together and fixed.The slow trio is an expression of the pot as it will be.

The third Movement presents the pots one by one, a family of related but subtly different objects, first as simple earthenware, and then glazed and coloured.Gradually the attention is drawn to the spaces inside each pot and between the different pots.The Quartet ends with this space.

The Drummer Boy of Waterloo is a new Children's Opera by David Stoll and Megg Nicol. Jubilee Opera will give the first performances in Aldeburgh on Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th November 2015. For more information go to David Stoll's

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Items related to STRING QUARTET 4 movement 1

Picture of Sheet music  for violin, violin, viola and cello. Study score of David Stoll's fourth String Quartet, in which he explores ideas from the world of ceramics.

(sheet music download)

Picture of Third movement of String Quartet 4 (SPACES IN A SPACE) - spaces in a space

STRING QUARTET 4 movement 3
(audio track download)

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