My Quintet for horn & string quartet was written May - June 2020 at the prompting of the soloist of the premiere performance who had already recorded, with splendid verve and understanding, my two suites for solo horn. I was so delighted to be asked - and wanted - that I composed the Quintet rapidly and with pleasure. Though most of its music is new it also contains some previous material, then recent, which all fitted in well, as if this had been its purpose.
I. Allegro: bold and pronounced: led by the horn, accompanied for some time only with viola and cello. As vigour yields to cantabile the violins steal in: the movement sinks to near-extinction; then builds rapidly to a fierce climax - horn marked strepitoso (noisy) - before sinking again into...
II. Canzona: Mainly for the quartet, soloist interjecting punctuations: a tender movement using a couple of ideas sketched earlier, here developing them in full. Towards the end, the horn, recuperated from the exertions of I. again takes the lead stretch of...
III. Scherzo; Presto, to rejoin for a lyrical trio. The return of the scherzo is again for the quartet alone.
IV. is a Rondo: Allegro commodo with a substantial insert at a slower tempo. This, too, uses previous material – a setting for unaccompanied the voice of a sonnet by Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury (elder brother of George Herbert) sent me by a friend who liked it and thought, rightly, that I would like it as well. Then when, later in May, writing the Quintet, it seemed to fit the new context very neatly, as if newly-made for the purpose; didn't even need transposition! The music follows the poem so precisely that the text should be given complete:
Made upon the Graves near Merlow Castle
You well compacted groves, whose light and shade,
Mixed equally, produce nor heat nor cold
Either to burn the young or freeze the old,
But to one even temper being made,
Upon a green embroidering through each glade
And airy silver and a sunny gold
So clothe the poorest that they do behold
Themselves in riches which can never fade:
While the wind whistles and the birds do sing,
While you're twigs clip, and while the leaves do frizz,
While the fruit ripens which those trunks do bring,
Senseless to all but love, do you not spring
Pleasure of such a kind as truly is
A self-renewing vegetable bliss?