Elgar Reimagined
- String Quartet in E minor
Music from Wyastone - Studio Concert Series
14th May 2021


Edward Elgar arr. David Matthews

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 83
– Allegro moderato
– Piacevole (poco andante) *
– Allegro molto *

* – Exclusive for ESO Digital supporters


English Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Kenneth Woods

Concert available in








Concert available from 7:30pm GMT Friday 14th May 2021

About this Concert

David Matthews’ string orchestra adaptation of the Elgar String Quartet was made at the instigation of George Vass, and premiered at the 2010 Presteigne Festival. Woods worked closely with Matthews on the work ahead of a performance at the 2017 Colorado MahlerFest, and the ESO first performed it at the 2018 Elgar Festival. “David’s arrangement is an important and very useful addition to the Elgar repertoire for string orchestras,” says Woods. “Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Serenade for Strings are among the most sublime works ever written for strings, but both risk being heard too often. The Quartet is a bigger work, a more difficult work, and a more substantial work, and forms a major new challenge for string orchestras everywhere. It was so exciting to come to this piece and to continue to develop our shared interpretation of it.”

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About the Arranger - David Matthews

One of the most important of British composers, David Matthews served as Composer-in-Association for the ESO from 2018-19. His Ninth Symphony was written for the ESO’s 21st Century Project. “I always thought the Elgar Quartet was almost orchestral even as a string quartet,” says David Matthews. “Of course, it’s a masterpiece and works beautifully in its original form, but I thought the larger forces and the addition of a bass part could give it a new dimension.”

About the Arrangement - Note from David Matthews


String Quartet, Op.83 Arranged for string orchestra by David Matthews

Although Elgar was a highly accomplished violinist, he wrote no mature string chamber music until, at the end of his creative life, he produced three major works: a violin sonata, a piano quintet and a string quartet. His creativity was incapacitated by the First World War: “I cannot do any real work with the awful shadow over us”, he wrote to his friend Sidney Colvin. He was living in his grand Hampstead house and much of the time was ill and deeply depressed. But in 1917 his wife found an isolated cottage, Brinkwells, near Fittleworth in Sussex. It was here, in the autumn of 1918, his spirits revived, that Elgar worked on the three new pieces, and also made sketches for his last major completed work, the Cello Concerto. These sketches were originally intended for string quartet, and the Quartet proper begins with similar E minor material. Both outer movements are full of mercurial changes of mood; both end at the last minute in the major, the finale with an exhilarating display of renewed energy. In between comes an intermezzo marked ‘Piacevole’, ‘peacefully’ – a pastoral C major interlude between the two stormy outer movements. Alice Elgar was particularly fond of this movement, and it was played at her funeral in 1920. In 2002, I arranged the slow movement for string orchestra and George Vass conducted it that year at the Deal Festival. The remainder of the Quartet was orchestrated in 2010. The substantial part of the arrangement is the addition of a double bass part, but I have also thickened the upper parts in a number of places. At two points in the first movement and at the end of the Andante I have preserved the original writing for solo strings. The arrangement was commissioned by the John S. Cohen Foundation. © David Matthews

Production Information

Recorded at Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, on 9th October 2020

Producer: Phil Rowlands
Videographer: Tim Burton
Orchestra Manager: Simon Brittlebank / The Music Agency
Stage Manager: Ed Hayes / The Music Agency

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