Hilda Paredes (1957)

U Yu T'an (1998)

pour quatuor à cordes

  • Informations générales
    • Date de composition : 1998
    • Durée : 15 mn
    • Éditeur : University of York Music Press
    • Commande : Octobre en Normandie
    • Dédicace : Quatuor Arditti
Effectif détaillé
  • violon, violon II, alto, violoncelle

Information sur la création

  • Date : 27 septembre 1998
    Lieu :

    France, Rouen, Église de la Madeleine

    Interprètes :

    le Quatuor Arditti.


Enregistrement : Quatuor Arditti, Mode Records New York, 2001, n° 149.

Note de programme

Because of the important heritage in the string quartet repertoire to write a string quartet is probably one of the most challenging projects for any composer. The challenge is greater when the group to write for, is an ensemble whose capabilities hardly know any limits. UY U T’AN is my first venture for string quartet.

As I started writing this piece, I decided to treat the instruments as characters of a play. I first thought of each one of them separately: a crazy and hyperactive first violin, a more relaxed and expressive viola, an absentminded cello, and an introverted and sometimes clumsy second violin. This also gave the idea for the title of the piece. UY U T’AN is an expression in the Mayan language of Yucatan, in the South of Mexico and it is made up of the word uy, which comes from the root u’uy, that means ‘to listen, to hear’; U means ‘their’ and t’an means ’word, language, talk’. So the expression can be translated as ‘Listen how they talk’, or ‘listen to their language’.

The interaction between the instruments provided me with the shape of the piece, which is in four sections. The first violin introduces the material of the opening section and sets up an interaction with the rest of the ensemble. Against a texture of harmonics, the viola introduces new slow moving and more lyrical material in the second part of the piece. The second violin interrupts abruptly with pizzicato material, which becomes the main texture of the following section. The cello introduces the last section and it has a very brilliant and rhythmic character, derived from my interest in the music of Northern India, as a small tribute to the then cellist Rohan de Saram.

Hilda Paredes.

Programme note from Mode records CD 149

For Uy U T’an, Paredes imagined a “crazy and hyperactive first violin” (it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t a portrait of Irvine Arditti involved here), contrasting with “an introverted and sometimes clumsy second violin”, a “relaxed and expressive viola”, and “an absent minded cello”. Most instruments have their own ‘character-defining’ material: for the first violin, it’s mainly a matter of virtuosic figurations, twirling and swirling across all registers, while for the second violin, it’s more stolid pizzicato figures, and for the viola, extended legato lines. But as for the cello, how does one depict absent-mindedness? Not so much through particular shapes and motives as through the disinclination to stay involved with what everyone else is doing, or perhaps to engage with an idea, tentatively, when everyone else has left it behind.

The four main sections of the quartet, which follow continuously from one another, reflect not so much the traditional four-movement quartet structure, as the four ‘characters’, each of whom has an opportunity to try to put their own stamp on the discourse: first the first violinist, then the viola player, then the second violin, and finally the cellist. The first part is much the longest (about half the length of the work): partly, perhaps, because of the first violin’s natural assertiveness, but also because the musical material naturally lends itself to being ‘argued out’, even though the cello is a slightly reluctant, fitful participant. In contrast, when the viola takes over in the second section, there’s little real discourse: the other players mainly sit back and ‘listen’, providing a backdrop of soft harmonics.

In Thomas Mann’s novel Doktor Faustus, there is a chapter describing lectures given by the music master Wendel Kretschmar, whose intellectual eloquence is impeded by a drastic stammer: so much so that the audience often feels impelled to help him out, finishing his words for him. One has the sense that something is similar is happening in the third section of Paredes’ quartet: following in the wake of the gently dominant, fluent viola, the second violin assumes such a reticent attitude that the other players feel obliged to come to his aid. And finally, though Paredes generally steers away from ‘traditional forms’, the fourth part does have a certain ‘finale character’. Now, the previously ‘absent-minded’ cello becomes extremely decisive, initiating a highly rhythmic section (inspired in part by North Indian music) in which everyone follows suit. Gradually the music moves more towards the kind of florid figures typical of the first section; indeed, following a slightly exhausted, fragmentary ‘pause for breath’, the first violinist seems poised to start the discussion all over again. But a single chord from the other three players puts a sudden stop to that.

Richard Toop.