String Quintet No. 1 in A Major, "Spring" (complete)
Note: Parts available upon request.
As an amateur composer, the muse inspired my "Spring" String Quintet No. 1 in A Major during a relative lull in my schedule as a professional engineer. This music took about 3 months of intense effort, and the Finale was exhausting. Now my schedule has begun to accelerate again, so I must set aside my composer's pen. Enjoy.
David Stybr: String Quintet No. 1 in A Major, "Spring" (complete) (29:10)
(2 violins, viola, cello and double bass)
I. Allegro moderato (7:30) - A Major - Page 2 in the score
II. Scherzo: Allegro (5:10) - F Major - Page 16
III. Hymn and Tango (8:15) - D-Flat Major - Page 27
IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco (8:00) - A Major / F-Sharp Minor - Page 36
Commentary by Left Brain and Right Brain – RB: "After my music for brass quintet in 2001 and wind quintet in 2002, I set my sights on strings in 2003. String quartets are the heart of chamber music, but I just couldn't leave out the double bass. My String Quintet No. 1 (2 violins, viola, cello and double bass) brings the added depth of a bass voice, and lets me weasel out of the daunting responsibility of string quartet literature. But that same double bass puts my music behind the 8-ball straightaway: good and great string quartet performers abound, but quality bassists are both in demand and scarce. Maybe a quartet can snare a willing string bass player who's chomping at the bit for some fun chamber music." LB: "As an amateur composer, this melodic work taught me more musical insights than 100 concerts. As an engineer, I created structural problems to explore, e.g. form and counterpoint. This work also highlights a symmetrical tonal progression, in which each movement is a major 3rd lower than the previous: A Major, F Major, D-Flat Major, and again A Major (and its relative minor F-Sharp Minor). These keys lend themselves to sudden but satisfying modulations." RB: "Say what you will, methinks the 3 keys for this movement were inspired by the trail-blazing musicological research in Cold-War-era Greenland of German composer and musicologist Karlheinz Klopweisser, in his celebrated study Der Tritonus als DEW-Diagramm (The Tritone as DEW Line); with a commentary by that cool cat: critic Theodore Slutz." LB: "Most amusing. Too many Glenn Gould CBC broadcasts, perchance? Then you might wish to purchase some stock in Geyser Petroleum drilling platforms in the Beaufort Sea." RB: "I'll let that slide, you hoser. It's fun to compare this work with my Brass Quintet in C Minor of 2001. Many similarities, but oh so many differences too. My music has grown in 2 years, but I keep on learning. In my Brass Quintet, one listener suggested that its last movement should have recapped the opening theme of the first movement, to add a cyclical facet to the work. Well sir, my String Quintet No. 1 takes this idea and runs with it." LB: "Indeed, the opening theme of my String Quintet No. 1 becomes almost an id?e fixe, a thread in the tapestries of the entire work. To further underscore the unity, the Finale draws themes from all 4 movements and builds into rich quintuple counterpoint. All 4 movements share another commonality, in that the fast movements contain contrasting slow middle sections, and vice versa. Originally outlined in December 2002, the full score was completed in March 2003." RB: "There's no program, but the upbeat mood, musical growth and March completion made me subtitle it 'Spring', my favorite season. The days get longer and warmer, April showers bring May flowers, and everything blooms and grows again. 'Spring Quintet' is also a cute little pun on 'String Quintet'. Har dee har har. Oh well, I guess you had to be there. Gee, next time I ought to revisit Australia or Chile, for spring in the Southern Hemisphere, eh? That's roight, myte, October showers bring November flowers! ?Y la primavera chilena me gust? mucho tambi?n!"
I. Allegro moderato (7:30) – LB: "This movement is a modified sonata form in A Major and 4/4 time, with forays into D-Flat Major and F Major (the keys of Movements III and II). An odd choice of keys perhaps, but all 3 are equidistant from each other, separated by major 3rds. A brief Introduction spans all 3 keys, and leads into the Exposition. Theme I is in A Major, Theme II in D-Flat Major, and the Development in F Major. Incidentally, major 3rds are double tones, which I sometimes divide into whole-tone scales. The Recapitulation and Coda return to A Major." RB: "Sonata form thrives on contrast, and this movement is chock full of contrast. Nice conversations between voices too. After the bustle of melodies, the Development includes a R?verie in 3/4 time for a lyrical double bass solo, if you got musicians who play real smooth." LB: "2002 was one of my busiest years as an engineer, but December finally gave me time to compose, and this music was very well received. Next I corrected typographical errors, and incorporated suggestions from musicians, such as to remove the beams from the pizzicato 8th-note accompaniment of Theme II." RB: "Never waver to do a favor for a quaver, I always say." LB: "This movement was completed New Year's Day 2003, after a splendid sailboat cruise in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, with a friend who is a Captain in the United States Navy. This was a rare privilege for me, and we had East Loch to ourselves (except for the watchful eye of military security). The music may reflect my awe to sail and hear the peaceful waves, amidst gorgeous Hawaiian scenery. Mahalo."
II. Scherzo: Allegro (5:10) – RB: "In January and February, an engineering project found me in Harrison, Arkansas, which helped me avoid an Illinois snowstorm or two. Harrison is in the beautiful Ozark Mountains south of that Midwest music mecca: Branson, Missouri. Most performers were on vacation though, so Branson was empty, and I missed the World's Largest Banjo. Anyway I doubt that banjos influenced the pizzicato sections of my Scherzo." LB: "The Ozark Mountains received their name from the early French explorers. A river with many bends was named 'La Rivi?re Aux Arcs', and 'Aux Arcs' became 'Ozarks' in English." RB: "Whateverrrr. The Scherzo isn't what it seems, or even seems to seem. The jaunty 6/8 Scherzo theme in F Major rolls in as a fugato/canon hybrid, followed by a closing episode. Or is it? A literal repeat begins, but that darn pseudo-closing episode barges into the counterpoint! The real closing episode is a fully-harmonized statement of the Scherzo theme. Pizzicato double-tone scales, based on the 3 main tonic notes of my String Quintet No. 1, then careen into the Trio." LB: "The Trio begins as a duet for viola and double bass, then literally a trio for viola, cello and double bass. The heartfelt melody is then repeated by the 2 violins, above a soaring duplet cello countermelody based on Theme I of the first movement. The Scherzo returns, but without repeats, and entirely pizzicato. This piece was completed in February 2003."
III. Hymn and Tango (8:15) – RB: "I'll kick off this discussion. The fast first movement has a slow episode, so how's about a slow movement with a fast episode? We fused 2 styles with little in common for contrast, and this Hymn and Tango combo could be subtitled 'The Sacred and the Seductive' (? la Claude Debussy's Danses Sacr?e et Profane). It's a simple ABA structure: Hymn-Tango-Hymn." LB: "The inspiration was equally simple. En route home from Hawaii in January 2003, we flew overnight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, to connect with a flight to Chicago. Minutes before dawn, we tookoff from LAX Airport to the west over the Pacific Ocean, then made a long slow turn south and east around the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula and Channel Islands of Southern California. As we flew inland, the beauteous golden peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains glowed in the Sunrise at that instant. As the Sun rose before us and the Land and Ocean fell away beneath us, that unforgettable dawn inspired the thrice-stated Introduction motives and the serene Hymn." RB: "Here's the scoop on the Tango. As we left LAX, a Qantas jet from Australia landed in the next runway. My mind drifted to the Southern Hemisphere, but the Spanish names in California made me think elsewhere down under the Equator: Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. My memories 4 years earlier of boisterous Buenos Aires, splendid Santiago and magnificent Montevideo transmogrified the Introduction and Hymn into a sensual Tango. This piece is like the dawn, a frenetic day, and then dusk with a stunning Moonrise." LB: "The Hymn is in D-Flat Major, with the Tango in its tonic minor, C-Sharp Minor, and then its subdominant, F-Sharp Minor (relative minor of the home key of the quintet: A Major). The expansive Theme I of the first movement reappears in its original A Major, but its contrapuntal context markedly changes its character. In the final section, each phrase of the Hymn modulates upward by major 3rds: D-Flat Major, F Major, A Major and finally D-Flat Major again." RB: "The tonalities may be symmetrical, but the phrases aren't. The Hymn has 7-bar phrases, and the Tango has 6-bar phrases. And the harmonies only seem simple. Not many accidentals, but they sure mix together well. On the other hand, string players won't like 5 flats, but I stuck to the tonal progressions, so as a compromise the D-Flat Major sections are slow."
IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco (8:00) – LB: "After the key changes of the previous 3 movements, the Finale in modified sonata form remains in 3 sharps throughout. Theme I in F-Sharp Minor hints at the opening of the first movement. Theme II in A Major reprises the soaring Trio from the Scherzo, in 6/4 time over the basic 4/4 rhythm. The Development is a brisk Fughetta and a Passacaglia, both based on Theme I. The Passacaglia recalls themes from all 4 movements as it builds into rich quintuple polyphony. Did you know that the word 'Passacaglia' literally means 'running the street' in Italian?" RB: "Why don't you go to Rome and frolic in heavy traffic? The reprise of the Trio theme shows we're into recycling, but you ain't heard nothin' yet! Here's a roll call of themes shoehorned into the Passacaglia: Mvt. IV Theme I, Mvt. III Tango, Mvt. II Trio, Mvt. I Theme I and Mvt. III Hymn. The 5-way counterpoint slides past each other real smooth, as the key gradually shifts. The first 2 themes are in F-Sharp Minor, the last 2 in A Major, and the middle theme bridges both keys. One problem though was your blasted irregular phrases: 5-bar, 6-bar, 7-bar and 8-bar. Make up your mind! Finally I averaged them into 6-bar segments." LB: "Such statistical manipulation is laudable. Alas 2 themes (Mvt. I Theme II and Mvt. II Scherzo) were omitted from the Passacaglia, as they would require a septet or octet. Although not 100% satisfied with my String Quintet No. 1, after 3 months of intense work it is my honest best." RB: "You betcha. I spent 50 hours on the Fughetta and Passacaglia alone, only 3 minutes of music! All 4 movements fit together wonderfully despite their flaws, and I love them all equally. And yet I'd tear them up in a minute, because the agony and the ecstasy are in the creation." LB: "Finally, a few technical matters. The Finale extensively uses tremolo, which appears in no other movement, whereas pizzicato is absent until the final 4 bars. The stereophonic placement of instruments in the software (left to right: 1st Violin, Viola, Double Bass, Cello, 2nd Violin) helps the polyphony emerge with greater clarity. Stereo interplay first appears in Theme I, and intensifies in the quadruple and quintuple contrapuntal developments of the Fughetta and Passacaglia sections. The Finale concludes with simultaneous statements of the Trio theme from the Scherzo and the opening theme of the first movement. It was completed in March 2003 to welcome spring."
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