Intellectual Magic: Tradition Infiltrated by Passion in the String Quartets of the English Composer Hugh Wood
Keywords:Hugh Wood, string quartet, modernism, traditionalism, musical motifs
AbstractThroughout the history of music there has often been a conflict between the old and the new. This applies very much to the music of the English composer, Hugh Wood (b.1932). Studying history, and later composition with Anthony Milner, Iain Hamilton and Mátyás Seiber, he respectively gained from them beauty of music, especially melody, and a mastery of counterpoint; the technique of twelve-note serialism; and a varied and undogmatic approach to composition. This has been reflected in almost universal praise for his music from the critics. Of his five numbered string quartets, the first, fourth and fifth are cast in separate movements, while the second and third play continuously in a large number of linked sections. Quartets Nos.1, 4 and 5 have short separate movements which ostensibly employ traditional forms, ternary, rondo, sonata, scherzo and trio, but in practice give little indication of this because of the vivid but terse ideas and the subtlety of motivic connections that arise from the use of extensive melodic fragments given at the very beginning of each work. The Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 are superficially different in technique, but here Wood groups his numerous sections (39 for No.2 and 24 for No.3) to suggest traditional forms. Again this is deceptive as there is dramatic argument at a detailed level which disguises any obvious connection with these traditional forms. The overall effect is one of drama, enhanced by a strong feeling for the progress of the music. The composer has retained some vestiges of traditional form and other techniques in his music, but at the same time has at all stages enlivened his thematic material with vividness, imagination and a strong sense of musical drama coupled with a strong motivic network. This is the intellectual magic that marks out these quartets as very special.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2007 Niall O'Loughlin
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Musicological Annual by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.