Burgess’s only string quartet is dedicated to the Primavera Quartet, winner of the 1977 Naumberg Award in chamber music. Burgess became acquainted with the Quartet through the award-winning American composer Stanley Silverman who married the Quartet’s principal violinist in 1980. On hearing the quartet, Burgess decided to compose a piece for them and he completed the work on March 8th 1980.
Reminiscent of Shostakovich and early Schoenberg, the quartet proceeds from a somewhat atonal Allegro commodo, through an Adagio interrupted by a lively piu mosso, to a tonal and lyrical Allegro molto. The piece was not premiered until 1994, a year after Burgess’s death; the most recent performance was given at the Burgess Foundation by the Heath Quartet in June 2014.
Click the image below for the score (opens in a new tab).