String Quartet No. 1 (2007)


String Quartet No. 1 (2007)


Bruce Polay


Program Notes

This first string quartet, as I hope to create more, was commissioned by the Lynn University Conservatory of Music and the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University as part of an invitation for me to serve as composer-in-residence at Lynn in March, 2008.

In preparation for composing this work I studied quartets by Beethoven, Smetana, Brahms, Zemlinsky, Schoenberg, Elgar, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Szymanowski, Shostakovich, Lutoslawski, and Volans, with emphasis on Haydn, in particular, the Prussian Quartets, Op. 50. After getting my fill of the greatest genius and innovation of these masters and not being able to find the forest through the trees, I attempted to find my voice outside of the forest.

The quartet's five movements have an arch-like architecture much like Bartok' s Fifth Quartet, with a twist. The first movement is a sonata form with an inverted, variated recapitulation and coda. The second and fourth movements are intermezzi that serve as structural bookends for the third movement scherzo. The intermezzi, that owe much to Shostakovich, contain cadenza-like qualities for the second violin and viola in the first one and the first violin and cello in the second. The.finale is a free-for-all of thematic development and matriculation much like that of the first movement, but freed from traditional sonata implications. Embodied in the work's harmonic strategy are key relationships and thematic schemes from the solfege letter designations found in Lynn (A) University (B-flat) Conservatory (C/C-sharp) ofMusic (E). The first movement begins in A minor, ending in E; the first intermezzo begins in C-sharp Major, ending in C-sharp Major; the scherzo begins in E, ending in G; the second intermezzo begins nebulously on E-flat, ending in B-flat minor (enharmonically); and the Finale begins in B-flat minor, ending triumphantly in A Mixolydian.

Composition Date



String Quartet No. 1 was commissioned by the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University for the 2nd Annual New Music Festival. It was premiered on March 20, 2008. The score is displayed via ISSUU with permission by the composer.

Streaming Media

String Quartet No. 1 (2007)