String Quartet #1
(1973)
by Ron Hannah

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Duration: about 17 minutes


Excerpt from Ingvar Nordin's review of the CD "Stringtime", which contains my
STRING QUARTET #1.

Ron Hannah's "String Quartet" - the longest piece on the CD with its eighteen minutes - is clothed in a more classical guise, but this time in a Webern - Berg - Schoenberg style, with chromatic twirls and fanciful dance figures appearing in a multilayered counterpoint in sometimes simultaneous but unequal tempi - very sophisticated! There is flair, an esprit here, of a certain airy intellectualism, very pleasing to a connoisseur of the fine things of life! It is classical also in its distribution across three movements, and the second movement is fittingly slow, introspective, in a remarkably beautiful intonation and a counterpoint that is devastatingly serene and clear, bringing you - I'm not kidding! - almost to tears. This is high art. I have to find out where I can obtain more CDs by Ron Hannah, because this string quartet makes it mandatory to go looking for further wonders. Masterly! The playing, too, leaves nothing more to wish for. It's perfect!

     My first attempt at this venerable form is most successful, I think. So much so that the Penderecki Quartet has recorded it for a CD called "
Stringtime", produced by the Edmonton Composers' Concert Society (now called New Music Edmonton). Apparently someone else agrees, and most enthusiastically! - see the review at right.

     Yes, it was a student work but even so one of my best. I have often been surprised, upon revisiting my early works, just how much I was able to put into them, and how good they are! That's not bragging. I was nearing the end of my studies with Violet Archer, and I think she enjoyed, too, the quartet's youthful panache. Certainly she encouraged further my growing technique. As a young and brazen student, I once interrupted a rehearsal of the University of Alberta String Quartet, headed by Thomas Rolston, and asked them if they would read through this work (wow, I can't believe I really did that!), and they graciously consented. I recall being struck by how dramatic the work is overall, how especially poignant is the second movement.

     It will require the services of good players to bring it off, and I think they will find its freely-tonal dissonant style appealing.

    To hear the piece, click on the buttons below. I, and the reviewer, especially like that second movement for its tender counterpoint (it is a double canon), and myself for the way it passes between consonant and dissonant sections. That movement was performed at my 70th birthday concert in Vienna, and I was deeply gratified by one of the violinists saying it "gives me goosebumps". I like it so much in fact, that I rewrote it as the slow movement of my Saxophone Quartet #1, and I even orchestrated it into my Mayan Opera ("The Weapons of the Weak"). Self-plagiarism is an established practice, in case you were wondering.

     If you wish to view the score, again click below or contact the Canadian Music Centre, and you may click here for a list of performances. Parts are available through the CMC or by sending me an email, my only requirement being that if you decide to do it that you send me performance details so I can keep this site up-to-date.




  



  



  


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