John Blackwood McEwen
String Quartet No.15 'in modo scotico'
McEwen subtitled String Quartet No.15 ‘A Little Quartet in modo scotico’. It is certainly filled with Scottish folk melody and while not a huge work, it is not really little for it is of standard length. It dates from 1936 when McEwen was 68. The opening movement begins with an Allegro giocoso fanfare, full of good spirits which does not last long and is followed by a droning, bagpipe-like lament. The moods are juxtgapositioned throughout. The middle movement, an Adagio, begins giving off the appearance of an improvisation for the first violin to a gloomy accompaniment in the other voices. Soon a Scottish melody takes and holds center stage. In the finale, Vivace, MeEwen gives the tempo as “in reel time.” The movement begins in a wild, raucous fashion followed by a more sedate section, again sounding of droning bagpipes, which relieves the frantic pace.
John Blackwood McEwen (1868-1948) was born in the Scottish border town of Hawick. He studied at the University of Glasgow and the Royal Academy of Music. He later became a professor at the Academy and then its principal. He was a co-founder of the British Society of Composers (1905) and himself composed in most genres, with the string quartet being central to his oeuvre. He composed 19 of them. During his lifetime, he was considered one of Britain's leading composers and a pioneer in many aspects. The famous chamber music scholar Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, praises McEwen as a very solid composer and recommends his string quartets. That McEwen's works did not become better known was in part due to the fact that he did very little to promote them. Many treasures await players and listeners alike.
Parts & Score: $33.95