duration: 10 minutes
The quartet was completed in March, 2000. It is in three short movements
and, as in almost all my music, I have used twelve-note technique in order
to give the harmony and contrapuntal texture coherence.
The first movement is predominantly lyrical and monothematic. The second
motif of its theme is treated developmentally while its first forms points
of formal return.
The second movement opposes and then fuses quick scherzando material with
bleak, limping slow-march music, both related to the first movement’s
The sustained melody at the start of the third movement is soon reduced
to a single motif and merges with a motivic summation of the quartet as
Michael Graubart was born in Vienna
in 1930 and came to England as a refugee in 1938. He studied physics at
Manchester University, but spent most of his time there composing and
playing the flute. He graduated in 1952 and worked for two years as a
development engineer in electronics at EMI while beginning a period of
some 4 years studying composition with Mátyás Seiber and
flute with Geoffrey Gilbert and starting to conduct. There followed some
years of part-time teaching and lecturing, playing orchestral, chamber
and solo music, composing, and conducting groups ranging from amateur
orchestras and the student-based Hampstead Chamber Orchestra to the professional
Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra (with which he gave the British premières
of works by Webern and Berio).
In 1966 he became a tutor and conductor at Morley College in London, and
from 1969 to 1991 he was the Director of Music there (in succession to
such composers as Holst and Tippett). He taught music history, theory,
electronic music and other subjects, and conducted choirs, orchestras
and the College’s contemporary music ensemble. During much of this
time he also worked as Musical Director of Focus Opera Group (an adventurous
group using young professional singers), conducting a very wide repertoire,
including many first performances. For two years he in addition held the
post of Adjunct Professor of Music at the London centre of Syracuse University
From 1991 to 1996 he was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Academic Studies
at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, teaching music history,
theory, analysis and composition, and directing Akanthos, the college’s
contemporary-music ensemble. He also conducted choirs in the North. He
retired from full-time teaching and returned to London in 1996.
Michael Graubart’s music is atonal, rhythmically complex and full
of sudden contrasts, but nonetheless essentially melodic and based on
motivic development and the transformation of recognizable themes. Its
technique, style and expressive content are influenced by the music of
Schoenberg and Webern. His commissioned and other compositions have been
performed and broadcast in Britain, in Italy and in Canada. These have
included songs, piano pieces (commissioned by Kathron Sturrock and Katharina
Wolpe), pieces for recorder and piano (for John Turner), a cello sonata,
a string quartet, two quintets for unusual combinations of instruments,
a chamber concertino for viola, Sinfonia a 10 for wind,
Variants and Cadenzas (commissioned for the Norfolk Youth
Orchestra), Aria and Elegy for symphony orchestra, and the
Trakl cantata Untergang. His choral and other arrangements
of traditional music, such as Three Sea Shanties for unaccompanied
choir and folksong arrangements for female voice, flute and cor anglais,
have also been performed, as have his editions of music by Dufay, Josquin,
Monteverdi and Pergolesi.
In addition to composing, conducting and teaching, he has edited early
music and has written numerous articles and reviews for Composer, Encounter,
Tempo, Acta Mozartiana and The International Journal of Musicology. He
gives pre-performance talks for Glyndebourne Festival and Touring Opera.
He has three children and a grandchild, he enjoys hill-walking, and for
light entertainment he studies the philosophy of Hegel.
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