My song is love unknown : for piano quartet
by Paul Stanhope (2000)
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The title My Song is Love Unknown is taken from a hymn
tune by John Ireland. I
was initially attracted to this hymn tune because of its sense of compassion and pathos,
during a time when, it seemed to me, the English-speaking world was edging towards
authoritarianism, especially in regard to the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens.
Musically, this piano quartet is quite like a Chorale Prelude in that it uses a wellknown
sacred melody and then weaves new material around it. In a structural sense, it
is also similar to a set of variations, the main difference being that only fragments of
the tune are heard at one time until the very end, where the tune is heard in its entirety
for the first time.
Written in a symmetrical form with seven small conjoining sections, the piece is
structured according to the progression of the hymn tune. The material begins lyrically
but gradually becomes more diffuse. In the central panel the music becomes
increasingly argumentative as fragments of the hymn tune are juxtaposed against the
increasingly assertive accompanying textures. Here the ambiguities of conflict do not
so much resolve as decide to co-exist as the tension dissipates. Tonal ambiguities
persist even as we hear John Ireland's beautiful hymn stated in its entirety for the first
Instrumentation: Violin, viola, cello, piano.
Duration: 9 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.
First performance: by Australian Piano Quartet — 17 Aug 00. Llewelyn Hall, Canberra School of Music
Work revised November 2009.
Performances of this work
17 Aug 00: Llewelyn Hall, Canberra School of Music. Featuring Australian Piano Quartet.
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