NEW MUSIC TUESDAY | Composer & Violist Garth Knox “Quartet for One” World Premiere

The Irish-born composer’s new work was premiered and recorded by violist Lawrence Power as part of his Lockdown Commission Project during the pandemic. He spoke to the Violin Channel about his piece and why it matters now.


"'Quartet for One’ all happens inside the head of a locked-down viola player who dreams he is giving a string-quartet concert in front of a large appreciative audience," Knox said. "In reality, he is all alone in an empty hall, but he really does play a quartet by himself!

"Lawrence Power, a great viola player and a good friend launched a whole series of ‘Lockdown Commissions’ —ten new pieces from ten composers, all with some reference to the present situation. His idea was to film performances of these in some of the most important concerts halls—ALL empty because of the virus situation. The filming is beautifully done by Jessie Rodger. We were lucky enough to be able to film it in the Royal Festival Hall in London, totally empty. It was perfect for the piece. The absence of AN audience is a huge presence in the film.

"I improvised a lot on each individual string, looking to find distinctive material for each one, bearing in mind that it had to fit together with the material for the other strings, and could be played at the same time. I even developed personalities for each instrument/string based on musicians I knew. The cellist is, of course, very lyrical, the violist a little nervous but with humour, the second violin discreetly sentimental, and the first violinist an extrovert showman.

"I hope that in the near future we will be able to smile about the lockdown situation and remember it as a really strange time. But at one point during the composition of the piece I suddenly thought, ‘Could this be the future of chamber music? Playing on your own with imaginary friends?’ Frightening!"