String Quartet No.8 in A

Click the links below to see excerpts:

 1. Allegro deciso/Andante/ Allegro   2. Intermezzo      3. Andante     4. Finale


ISMN 979-0-720073-05-7

Duration: approximately 25 minutes.

score: 50.00 AUD - parts: 60.00 AUD

In the catalogue of Alfred Hill’s music this work has the identifier SQ8.

The score of Alfred Hill’s eighth quartet is dated 6th December 1934. After the sixth, also dated 1934, all the following quartets were composed before March 1938 for a string quartet in Sydney with which the composer was then associated. In a recorded interview he stated that he composed when there was a demand that might
lead to performance, demonstrated by the fact that no more quartets were written after that ensemble ceased to function. In conversation with the late Cedric Ashton, the cellist in that quartet, I was told that he well remembered playing the 1930s quartets when they regularly rehearsed at his home in Sydney. While the manuscript parts that they would have used show bowing and other marks, no evidence of public performance or recording of this work has so far been found.

There is a marked contrast between the compositional style employed here and that of Hill’s early works. The harmony is a far cry from that which he learnt over forty years previously in Leipzig and demonstrates the influence of impressionism and a willingness to take part in the experimentation that was in vogue. This quartet may not be difficult for listeners today but Antipodean audiences at the time it would probably have found it rather too modern for their taste, which, with Cedric Ashton’s remark that the earlier quartets were better received, is a probable explanation for the apparent lack of performances. Hill did, however, retain a more conventional style for compositions intended for the wider market.

In contrast with some of the other quartets that included previously composed discrete movements or were assemblages of unrelated movements from earlier ones, the movements of String Quartet No.8 bear thematic unity and are in related keys. It can be observed that the opening statement in the first movement is the germ from which many of the following melodies are developed, thus demonstrating the strong compositional integrity of the work.

Following the commencement of professional orchestras by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Hill orchestrated several of his string quartets to create symphonies for string orchestra or full orchestra. Most of these were the result of interest by conductors in the 1950s. The adaptation of the eighth quartet to create Symphony in A for String Orchestra ( SyA) was made sometime before 1957 when John Antill conducted a performance by the Sydney String Orchestra. The symphony score is undated and each movement bears programmatic subtitles that are absent from the quartet score.

This edition has been prepared from the autograph score and parts. The adaptation for string orchestra and its recording have also been useful.

Allan Stiles 2008

Stiles Music Publications