When the Lyris Quartet asked me to write a string quartet based on Janáček’s Intimate Letters, I began to think about the work and how I could respond to it. I decided my work would explore my own notion of intimacy. I exploit the gentle side of the string quartet— muted sonorities, quiet dynamics, delicate gestures — with ideas unfolding gradually and organically in a single formal arc. Although the mood of Intimate Voices contrasts strongly with that of the Janáček, its materials all owe their genesis to two themes from Intimate Letters. The passionate opening theme of the first movement appears transformed into a searching melody that first appears nearly halfway through the work and becomes the principal melodic idea for Intimate Voices. But the core of the work comes from the eerie melody introduced by the viola about ten seconds into the first movement of Intimate Letters. This fragment is repeated by the cello, but then is not explored further in Janáček’s work. In contrast, the first four notes – G-C-F#-D – become the harmonic and melodic palette from which my entire work evolves.
About Peter Knell
Praised for being “gratefully idiomatic” (Los Angeles Times) and for its “subtle virtuosity” (MusicWeb International), Peter Knell’s music is meticulously crafted for both instruments and voices, making full use of…