Phantasy for String Quartet in g minor
The Phantasy for String Quartet by Susan Spain-Dunk (1880-1962) was composed for the prestigious Cobbett Competition. The Cobbett Competitions where designed to encourage the younger generation of British composers to write chamber music. Its founder and benefactor was the chamber music aficionado William Wilson Cobbett. The rules of the competition provided an alternate format, the old English Fancy for Fantasia from the time of Purcell, to the traditional four movement work which had developed from Haydn onwards. There was to be only a single movement of around 15 minutes duration embracing a variety of moods, tone colors and tempi while at the same time retaining an inner unity. Therefore, Spain-Dunk, who wrote this work with the competition in mind wrote it, as the rules stipulated in one movement, but there are actually four distinct sections or sub-movements within the one larger one.
It opens with a tragic-sounding forte melody in the cello (see below), set against triplets in the inner voices, then passed between instruments. The second section contains a gentle, pastoral permutation of the theme. This is followed by a lovely dolce version of the theme given by the first violin and then comes a fugue. The Phantasy ends with a chordal, florid version of the theme.
Spain-Dunk was born in Folkestone in Kent. She was trained as at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied both violin and composition. For many years, she served as the violist in W.W. Cobbett’s quartet. She won many prizes for her compositions and her works, once quite popular, at least in Britain, include orchestral pieces as well as chamber music.
This is a compelling, first rate work which would do well in the concert hall, where a shorter work is required, but will present no technical difficulties to amateurs. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available once again.