For anyone interested in reading about Foulds's more adventurous works, the Quartetto intimo, completed in 1932, is a good place to start. Its title might suggest a work of gentle appeal but its violently discordant opening bars, setting the listener up for a rollercoaster journey of discovery, are more than enough to refute the idea. This work is intimate only in the intensity of its expression, since in tone it runs the full gamut of the string quartet's dynamic and textural potential. It reveals a composer of music both passionate and contemporary, in stark contrast with his reputation by the 1930's as a composer of 'light music' - a reputation he railled against at the same time as accepting as a necessary provider of income; this duality of purpose is exposed in exquisite quasi-self-contradictory style in his book of 1934, Music To-Day. In fact, for all its potential for European success, the Intmo was not performed in public until 1980, and remains the first of only two quartets he is known to have approached in his later years, those written previously totalling probably eight.
The Turina-Quartett have kindly given permission for a live performance made in February 2003 to be downloaded free of charge. Please click here to download a .zip file containing the whole work in mp3 format (31.7Mb). Many thanks to cellist Michael Schlechtriem for making this possible.
1. Poco trattenuto - Impetuoso
2. Lento introspettivo
3. Pasquinade: Con amore
4. Colloquy: Serioso
5. Finale: Energico passionata
Performing duration between 30 and 35 minutes.
A manuscript score is held in the collections of the British Library. For copyright permission and background information apply to Graham Hatton.
Add.56481 Foulds Collection. Vol. xiii. 'Quartetto Intimo', for string quartet, op. 89; 1932. Score.
ff. i+14. Largest size 355 x 265mm.
Minimal but appreciable preservation work was undertaken for this manuscript in the form of page-edge restoration and binding, but this has helped maintain its readable condition. Foulds's hand is steady and clear throughout. A few pencil markings and the occasional thick black ink are added but although not attributed to the composer, they seem logical amendments and performance indications. An authorative edition of the work in future should not prove at all controversial. Reproduction of the manuscript requires permission from the British Library, whose charges for this "service" are too high for free web reproduction.
Since Foulds was a keen chamber player it is at least possible that the work was performed privately during his lifetime. Not publically performed until the Endellion Quartet took it to the 1980 Bromsgrove Festival. Recently added to the repertoire of the Turina-Quartett (ca.2003).
This work was not published.
Foulds - Quartetto intimo [et al]
1. Quartetto intimo [String quartet no.9, op.89, 1931] *LISTEN:
Performers: Endellion Quartet
Notes: 6 pages of uncredited liner notes with a nod to the British Music Society. A review is available at http://www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2000/nov00/foulds.htm. Previously released on LP as SHE 564
Permission has been successfully sought to display opening extracts from the quartet movements. Click here for full-size notation [ca.1MB].
Things to watch out for (definitely not an analysis!)
QUARTER-TONES AND HARMONY.
Foulds's fascination with oriental and Indian ideals permeates much of his music, although its manifestation varies from melodic allusion (in some of his light orchestral music), to rhythmic emphasis (e.g. the Mantras, the Dynamic triptych), to scales (e.g. the explorations of Essays in the modes), to spiritual influence (in his choice of subject matter). In Music to-day, Foulds elucidates his views on the uses of quarter-tones in music, remarking that his experiments date back to a string quartet of 1898. This work appears no longer to exist, but on evidence of his claim, Foulds's appreciation of the idea would have had three decades to gestate. Application in his works, though, is sparing, and limited in the Intimo to the end of the second movement (see the music example above). This equates neatly with his view that the quarter-tone (roughly speaking the addition of a further grade between the semitones of the Western chromatic scale), along with other "modern" elements such as atonality, should be employed as part of "a thing to be expressed" (Music to-day, p.57) rather than a distinct language in its own right. Indeed, his argument for a world musical style emerging from a relative stylistic uniformity spreading throughout Europe and beyond in the 19th century reflects an undercurrent in his music to remain anchored to diatonicism, albeit with varying elasticity (tested to its limits here by piling ), but with the freedom to adventure into any territory to achieve the desired effect. In this he simultaneously champions and deprecates the experiments of his peers on the Continent. He saves the quarter-toneindicated by an extension of the sharp/flat sign to indicate a quarter measure rather than a semi-tonefor the one place in the quartet where he feels its effect most powerful: the second movement, for all its slow tempo, is perhaps the most intense in its intimacy, employing as it does both empassioned melody with late romantic harmonies, melding with intense dissonance, chromaticism, melodic glissandi and extreme tessitura. The final few minutes are an inexorable slide into some still netherworld, with tempo, scale, and texture declining (or resolving) into a background of high harmonics and pianissimo pizzicato. The quarter-tone is here one part of how the composer achieves this "effect", stretching the elastic of the scale along with as many other musical tools at his command. Whether the result is icy or shimmeringly peaceful perhaps depends on the performance, but the one thing it certainly is is expressed.
RHYTHM AND METRE.
As with the quartets of Bartók, of which Foulds was both aware and respectful (he mentions an "interesting tri-rhythmic presentation of an idea in the second movement of Bartók's Second Quartet" in Music to-day, p.137), the Intimo's rhythmic energy is generated both by its powerful sense of metre and a determined freedom from its restraints. Each movement is clearly driven by very specific time signatures which become progressively less 'traditional' until the finale's 5/4 strictly indicated 5-beat time as opposed to a more comfortable 3+2 or 2+3 awkward duple pulse. It is almost as if the music is gradually wearing thin the barriers of a regular 3/4 or 4/4 metre, since the opening movement strains hard against it, veering recklessly against the pulse, ironically strengthening the sense of momentum in its wake; the second movement tries to ignore it, laying meticulous swells and stresses where it desires; the third cheekily (the semi-quaver triplets almost sound like chuckles - even a Dies irae quotation is marked pizzicato) lays sforzando phrase openings before the 4/8 beat; there is more fluidity with the 5/2 of the Colloquy at least partly because its drawn-out background tempo is almost undescernible against slow, even chords and recitative-like solos; and finally the 5/4 Energico feels comfortable and unabashed, free to bestow its emphasis where it needs, and feeling all the happier for it.
MASTERY OF GENRE
Foulds had written quartets all his life, although only a small proportion survive. The Intimo shows how far he was prepared to push the string player to create the quartet he wanted to make. As an accomplished cellist, Foulds would have been aware of the possibilities both of the instruments and the medium as well as their limitations, but even so, the ferocity of musical expression is always tempered with a sense of balance so as not to overextend the capabilities of the idiom. The opening chords for example always sound striking and vital yet are only marked forte, most likely due to the impending treaturous climb to the upper edges of the instruments' range in the following bars. The reason why those chords sound so striking is the strict bowing indication and the natural vigour required to create the illusion of quadruple stopping. This is no isolated point: the quartet score is densely packed with bowing indications, minute hair-pin swells, sforzandi, staccato, harmonics, glissandi, mutes, even which position or string to use. His manuscript score at the British Library is neat to the point of pedantry, ensuring that as little as possible is left to miscomprehension or error (for example his note concerning the equal value of beat in 5/4 metre, or explanation of quarter-tone accidentals). In addition, perhaps with a cellist's aspirations towards equality, the part-writing shows him continually shuffling the pack, bringing each player to the top of the texture without the result sounding in the least bit forced.
What other have to say
Mitunter gibt sein "Quartetto" Ratsel auf, etwa im dritten
Satz "Pasquinade". "Mit Humor" soll es gespielt werden.
Da aber geistert beständig das bedrohliche "Dies irae, dies illa"
durch die vier Streicher - Foulds' Geheimnis, das hier "intimo"
[Münster concert, November 2002, featuring Mozart, Foulds and Schönberg] Programme notes
Even if the work does not appeal to you, can you deny the mastery of
writing for a string quartet or the torrent of invention which is poured
Lance Tufnell ('John Herbert Foulds (1880-1939). An appreciation' in British Music Society journal, vol.10 1988, pp.47-55)
... a masterpiece by any standards: one of the greatest string quartets
by a British composer.
Malcolm MacDonald, John Foulds and his music, 1989 (London, Kahn & Averill, Ltd.)
Foulds has very few scholarly champions and articles focussing on his music beyond simple biographical surveys must be sough after usually in the less high profile journals. Malcolm MacDonald is by far the most prolific of writers, contributing in volume perhaps more than the rest combined. His research into cataloguing Foulds' works for John Foulds: his life in music (Triad Press, 1975) went as far as brief analysis of the prominent themes and devices the composer used (pp.42-44) but he was to return to the quartet in far more detail in an article written for the music librarian-serving journal Tempo: 'John Foulds and the string quartet' (vol.132, March 1980, pp.16-25, credited as Calum MacDonald), which also made some inroads into comparisons with his earlier quartets as well as the existing material remaining of the Quartetto geniale. His closer inspection of the quartet is also reflected in the 1989 publication John Foulds and his music (PRO/AM Music Resources / Kahn & Averill, Ltd.).