String Quartet No.7 (Cuatro voces ladinos - four Ladino voices) is dedicated to the composer's father, Samuel, an enthusiastic amateur musician who played the violin, viola and cello, and was a regular contributor to The Strad magazine.
The first movement uses an adaptation of an Arabic mode which has become associated with Spanish music. The movement is mostly contemplative but rises to an intense climax before returning to its opening tranquillity.
The second movement, in waltz tempo, is rhythmic and has alternating quiet and animated sections.
The third movement uses an old Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) melody entitled Kaddish (sacred). It is a setting of Psalm 93 'thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becomes thine house, oh Lord, forever.' This tune was one of Samuel Salzedo's favourites and is first heard on the cello with the exaggerated expression with which he used to play it. The movement also uses scale passages which Samuel often practised early in the morning before going to work.
The finale is a kind of moto perpetuo which gradually becomes more and more rhythmically complex as it reaches its climax. It expresses Samuel's inner conflict between his materialistic outlook on life, rejecting religion, and his inability to cut himself off completely from his Jewish background. This unresolved inner conflict is the central theme of the piece.
Leonard Salzedo (1921 - 2000) was born in London of Spanish/Jewish descent. He studied at the Royal College of Music where he won the Cobbett Prize for his First String Quartet and was commissioned to write his first ballet The Fugitive. He played violin in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Soloists Ensemble. In 1967 he gave up playing the violin to become Musical Director of Ballet Rambert (now Rambert Dance Company). In the 1970s he was principal conductor with the Scottish Ballet, and in the 1980s he was Music Director of London City Ballet. After 1986 he devoted himself full-time to composition, and wrote prolifically until 1997.
In spite of continuous activities as a performer he wrote more than 160 compositions including 10 string quartets, two symphonies, 17 ballets, and many pieces for strings brass, wind, percussion, voice, and combinations of these. This comprises a vast musically diverse legacy of works which bespeak his love of his craft and an insider's knowledge of the orchestra and its various instruments.
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