STATO D’ANIMO - for string quartet

Commissioned by the Smith Quartet and a ‘Grants for the Arts’ award from Arts Council England.

First performances:
St. Georges Brandon Hill, Bristol 3 October 2006
The Smith Quartet

Aula Absidale, Bologna, Italy 1 February 2007
The Smith Quartet

Duration: c.18 minutes

Suzanne Rolt on Stato d'Animo

'It was one of the best received premieres we have held in recent years'

by Suzanne Rolt, Artistic Director at St. George's Brandon Hill, Bristol

St. Georges Brandon Hill, Bristol on Stato d'Animo

'James Barrett's Stato d'Animo struck me as a highly impressive and accomplished work, full of fantasy and colour and written with an innate feel for the medium of the string quartet'

by John Pickard, composer, Senior Lecturer in composition at Bristol University, trustee of St. Georges

As the title suggests (loosely translated as 'State of Being' or 'Frame of Mind'), there was no obvious subject matter acting as inspiration for the piece, but I rather wanted to internalise and look a little deeper in responding to and trying to identify/react to my thought processes when I was writing. This was a particular area of interest for me at the time, in that I'm very aware of what feels like a sixth sense or a voice from my subconscious when I'm writing, and much of the time I just can't fathom where the music comes from.

Five movements:

1. Forza Motrice<br /> - click to enlarge

1. Forza Motrice

Within the framework of my conscious mind, I'm also aware of a driving force which seems to raise my adrenalin level and carry me on a wave through a piece when I'm writing. This was the main focus for the first movement, and the inspiration for its title. I also simultaneously looked at 'floating' or 'poly'tonality in this movement.

2. Spazio indefinibile <br /> - click to enlarge

2. Spazio indefinibile

As an extension of the idea of sitting in an undefinable space while musical thoughts come down to you, the second movement, which is this time largely atonal in its conception, combines this notion and is juxtaposed with a short theme, more specific in its tonality, which returns several times, developing a little further each time that it does.

3. L’ubriaco barcollo’ ma non cadde [an Irishman’s Reel]<br /> - click to enlarge

3. L’ubriaco barcollo’ ma non cadde [an Irishman’s Reel]

Movement 3 is presented as a contemporary Irish reel, in which I've tried to go to the furthest extremes in harmonic and textural variety within the framework of this dance form. I also wanted the piece to be be fun, a word not often enough associated with much contemporary music. The reference to a drunkard had no bearing on how much beer I'd had to drink when writing the piece, but was rather an image conjured up by the music, and is also a play on words ('The drunkard reeled but didn't fall over'). It also flagged up the idea of how far one can go in distorting a familiar form without making it fall flat on its face.

4. Da dove – dono dal subcosciente, o sesto senso? <br /> - click to enlarge

4. Da dove – dono dal subcosciente, o sesto senso?

The fourth movement is a more lyrical statement, acting as a natural continuation for what had gone before. I was in reflective and contemplative mind when writing this part of the quartet, but it was also appropriate with regard to just letting the music flow (who knows where from exactly?). It was important for me that much of what the form of the String Quartet means to me historically was not ignored in the work, and this movement helped to fulfill that aim.

5. E allora si arriva ‘dopo la prima prova' [scherzo privato da zingaro]<br /> - click to enlarge

5. E allora si arriva ‘dopo la prima prova' [scherzo privato da zingaro]

The piece concludes with a tongue-in-cheek multi-textural short movement which draws on Moravian folk music, and revolves around a private joke.

Programme notes - click to enlarge

Programme notes

To read full programme notes in Wod 'doc or Word 'rtf' format click below

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