Thesis submission ID 946 | created | last updated

Adrian Mantu, Aspects of a late-developing repertoire: the string quartet in Ireland 1916-2016
DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2023

Volumes, pp.: 1 vol (vi, 222 pp.)  
Supervisor(s): Denise Neary
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): Royal Irish Academy of Music Library

General specialism: Musicology: Performance Studies
Historical timeframe: 1916-2016
Key terms, persons: Jane O'Leary; Jennifer Walshe
Key terms, genres, instruments: String quartet

This thesis explores aspects of a hundred-year history of the string quartet in Ireland. It takes the year of the Easter Rising as its starting point. During the period covered by the thesis, the string quartet in Ireland changed from a genre locked in a provincial style of writing and became one through which Irish composers engaged fully with the world of the avant-garde. Today, string quartets by Irish composers can hold their own in the wider world of twenty-first-century string quartet composition.

In addition to surveying wider aspects of Irish musical life over that period that impinge on the world of the quartet, the thesis concentrates on works by Jennifer Walshe (b1974) and Jane O’Leary (b1946). Both composers express an interest in freedom in performance, but in very different ways in their works for quartet. In O’Leary’s case, the composer’s collaboration with her performers can begin years before a first performance, as she assembles ideas and material and explores techniques. The resulting works are highly fluid in performance. In her sole quartet, Walshe, by contrast, set a fixed background — a pre-recorded tape. But she does not use that to impose even strict limits of time or co-ordination on the players.

This thesis describes the creative process the composers undertook in composing and revising these works in close collaboration with ConTempo Quartet, of which I am the cellist.

Edgar Deale’s A Catalogue of Contemporary Irish Composers (2nd edn, 1972) lists just twenty-three string quartets, ten of which are by a single composer Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994), who was born to Irish parents in England and spent part of her childhood in Ireland. Her works do not form part of the current CMC library. Neither do the recently rediscovered string quartet works of Irish-American composer Swan Hennessy (1866-1929). But based on Deale’s numbers, the string quartet repertoire in Ireland over the last half century has grown by more than a factor of 23. The world of the Irish string quartet has yet to be researched for its own sake. This thesis is a start on that road.
Thesis submission ID 946