Michael Graubart

String Quartet

duration: 10 minutes

Strng Quartet
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 motifs.

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 a whole.

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 (U.S.A.).

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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