Schaduw  - for string quartet, percussion, and string orchestra

KTC 7059 . 1CD . 8711801070599 . 20/01/2023 . Etcetera Records

Schaduw - for string quartet, percussion, and string orchestra


  • Theo Verbey (1959-2019)

In March 2003, Theo Verbey's work Schaduw (Shadow) was premiered by Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, a chamber orchestra now known as Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Renowned Dutch musicologist and journalist Thea Derks talked with Theo Verbey about the piece on 23 December 2002. With Schaduw, Sinfonietta commissioned Verbey to write a composition for them and the Brodsky Quartet. Verbey said it was "an exciting commission. Because the soloists are also string players, you do not have a lot of sound contrast available a priori; you have to create it yourself. I was familiar with the Brodsky Quartet from CDs, but I only got to know them personally two years ago during the Gergiev Festival. Enthusiastic musicians who perfectly play the most difficult quartets by, for example, Shostakovich, but who are also at home with crossover music. I clearly did not have to worry about any performance problems so, in Schaduw, I went to town with virtuosic techniques like Bartok pizzicati, where the string snaps against the body with a bang; challenging meter changes; harmonics; playing on the bridge; lightning-fast runs, and difficult intervals. In so doing, I strived for optimal contrast between the strings of the quartet and those in the ensemble. For example, I used a lot of the double bass's low register because a string quartet lacks that timbre. Sometimes I square up the quartet as a whole against the tutti ensemble, then all the strings play together. At other times, the quartet members step forward as soloists. The two groups act like each other's 'shadow' or mirror image; they reflect each other."

Schaduw is another of Verbey's pieces based on a number ratio that determines the musical trajectory. Verbey: "This time, I chose the proportions 6:4:3:5 because I wanted to let the slow tempi dominate. The piece has four movements played without a break. The first movement is slow, the second is somewhat faster, and the third is faster still, with a scherzo-like character. The fourth and final movement can be seen as a varied repetition of the first movement." The structure can't really be called classical "because it's highly unusual to compose slow outer movements; traditionally, they are always fast." In this, Theo Verbey was inspired by Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand: "In that piece, Ravel also placed the allegro in the middle and not the outer movements. But that's where the similarity with Schaduw ends."

Listeners should not be blinded by the number ratios, according to Verbey: "They were in use during the medieval Ars Nova, as well as in Indian and Arabic music. It's not important for the direct experience of listening."

Amsterdam, 23 December 2002
Thea Derks
translated from the Dutch by © Eileen J. Stevens

Schaduw (Shadow)
For string quartet, percussion, and string orchestra

Recorded 6 March 2003, Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in Utrecht Netherlands
Amsterdam Sinfonietta (known then as Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam)
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Brodsky Quartet
Andrew Haveron, violin
Ian Belton, violin
Paul Cassidy, viola
Jacqueline Thomas, cello


Track listing

1 Schaduw - for string quartet, percussion, and string orchestra 20:06
artists: 'Amsterdam Sinfonietta ' 'Peter Oundjian' 'Brodsky Quartet '
composers: 'Theo Verbey (1959-2019)'