Paul Stanhope: String Quartet No.1, Elegies and Dances

String Quartet No.1, Elegies and Dances


Commissioned for Musica Viva Australia by Julia Hickman Potter, in honour of Peter Hickman’s sixtieth birthday. It was premiered by the Tin Alley String Quartet at the Huntington Festival in Mudgee, NSW in November 2008.

Performed by the Australian String Quartet
Dale Barltrop – Violin I
Francesca Hiew – Violin II
Christopher Cartlidge – Viola
Michael Dahlenburg – Cello 

Composed by Paul Stanhope
Produced by Jakub Gaudasinski
Mixed & Mastered by Jakub Gaudasinski
Recording Engineers  Tom Henry & Jakub Gaudasinski

Recorded at ABC Collinswood, October 2020
Angelina Zucco – ASQ Chief Executive
Sophie Emery – ASQ Operations Manager
Artwork – Jim Tsinganos Illustration
Art Direction – Cul-de-Sac Creative

Special thanks to Paul Stanhope for his valued support of this release.


This arch-shaped quartet in a single movement begins with an introduction comprising a series of sighing, brooding, elegaic figures (an elegy being a poetic form featuring elements of sorrow or sadness) featuring a figure of a rising tone and descending semitone. An argumentative solo part in the first violin is pitted against the slow and sombre music in the lower instruments and acts as an agent provocateur, driving the music headlong into a series of interlinked fast-tempo dance episodes. Solo instruments and different sections are featured in this dance with hypnotic pizzicato ostinatos and other percussive effects.

Thematic elements introduced earlier are now elaborated throughout the course of the movement: for example, the rising tone and descending semitone figures of the opening are superimposed to form symmetrical scales and the elegies from the opening become longer threads of melody soaring over driving rhythmic elements. As the movement climaxes, the brittle and uneasy dance elements start to tether. Each part becomes more individualistic and assertive with machine-like repetitive figures pitted in different time groupings against each other. These argumentative elements gradually and reluctantly release to echoes of the opening elegies in a series of slowly descending harmonic spirals and a more resigned statement of the material heard in the introduction.

String Quartet No.1 was commissioned for Musica Viva Australia by Julia Hickman Potter, in honour of Peter Hickman’s sixtieth birthday. It was premiered by the Tin Alley String Quartet at the Huntington Festival in Mudgee, NSW in November 2008.

Paul Stanhope © 2008/2015


Paul Stanhope is a Sydney-based composer, conductor and educator. His compositions have had prominent performances in the UK, Europe, Asia as well as North and South America. After studies with Andrew Ford, Andrew Schultz and Peter Sculthorpe in Australia, Paul was awarded the Charles Mackerras Scholarship which enabled him to study at the Guildhall School of Music in London in 2000.

In May 2004 Paul’s international standing was confirmed when he was awarded first place in the prestigious Toru Takemitsu Composition Prize. He has been awarded four APRA/Australian Music Centre Art awards in Instrumental, Orchestral, Choral and Vocal music categories and was also the first composer to receive a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship in 2013 and 2014.

In 2010 Paul was Musica Viva Australia’s featured composer, receiving nation-wide performances by the Pavel Haas Quartet, the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Atos Piano Trio from Berlin. Paul’s music has also been featured at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival (Wales) in 2009, The City of London Festival in 2011 and at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in 2016. In 2018 a new Piano Trio was premiered by eight competing trios from around the world as part of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.

2014 saw the premiere of Jandamarra: Sing for the Country, a music-drama based on the life of the Western Australian Indigenous resistance hero in collaboration with librettist Steve Hawke and members of the Bunuba nation in North Western Australia. Written for large choral and orchestral forces as well as singers, actors and dancers from the Bunuba Community, it was premiered by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Gondwana Choirs and has since had a return performance in October 2019, presented by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Jandamarra has been recognized as a milestone in Australian composition.

More recently, Sydney Chamber Choir premiered another major work, a Requiem, which has been hailed by the Sydney Morning Herald as a ‘Major Contribution to Australian Choral Music’. A new Violin Sonata which was to be premiered in a national tour by Musica Viva in 2020 will instead receive a digital release in 2021 with a performance by Andrew Haveron and Simon Tedeschi.

Over the last few years, Paul has enjoyed collaborating with the musicians of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and director Tim McGarry in creating the children’s music theatre piece ‘There’s a Sea in my Bedroom’ which premiered in 2019, with a digital release on the Sydney Opera House’s channel in 2020. ‘Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge’, based on the children’s book by Mem Fox, is a joyful and touching follow up collaboration with the ACO to be premiered in May 2021, this time under the directorship of Sandie Eldridge. A new work, Giving Ground for chamber orchestra, will be premiered by the ACO Collective in August 2021.

Paul is an Associate Professor of Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney and also the Artistic Chair of the Australia Ensemble, UNSW.

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