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Pelog Quartet

A String Quartet by Anthony Ritchie, Opus 168

Most of the themes in this work are connected in some way with the opening melody which is based on the pelog scale used by Indonesian gamelan music.

Programme Note

This piece was written for The Tresoli Trio of Christchurch, augmented by violist Vyvyan Yendoll. It was originally commissioned by Rosemary Stott, the pianist in the group, along with her colleagues Susan Farmer, violin, and Jenny Davey, cello, for performance in The Christophers Classics series, 2012.

The quartet is in one continuous movement, divided into four sections: slow-fast-slow-fast. Although there are several different themes in the work, most of these are connected in some way with the opening melody on piano, which is then shared among the ensemble in canon.

This melody is based on the pelog scale (in this piece: A - B flat - C - D# - E - F - G) from Indonesian gamelan music, and was inspired by the composer's experience with the Puspawarna gamelan ensemble in Dunedin in 2009. It contrasts with a more harmonic theme at letter A.

These two themes also appear in the fast section that follows (bar 52) but varied and in a completely different context. Another theme at letter G provides a brighter tonality, is more restful harmonically.

There is an echo of Lilburn's music in this theme, which eventually gives way to a waltz section (letter I). Here, ideas are developed before the main themes reappear in reverse order. The section is left unresolved, leading into a quiet lyrical trio for the strings, undermined by ominous piano interruptions (letter R). This slow section also features a pentatonic theme (bar 283) that grows into layers as the strings join in one by one.

The meditative atmosphere disappears as the piano has a quasi- improvised solo, leading into the final fast section. Rollicking in mood, it features jig-like rhythms and a bright, mixolydian melody, shared by the strings.

Two brief episodes provide some contrast before a slow buildup to the climax of the piece.

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