Abstract Mirror is a single movement work for string quintet
The composer writes: 'After listening to the Schubert Quintet, it occurred to me that one of the many virtues of that score is the way the second cello is absorbed effortlessly into the texture. I became fascinated with the reverse, highlighting the added sonority of the bass texture.' The title refers not only to the reverse image that a mirror provides but also to the idea of fragmentation, refraction, and distortion.
I have, for many years, wanted to write a quintet using an extra cello. Listening to the great Schubert Quintet, it occurred to me that one of the many virtues of that score is the way the second cello is absorbed effortlessly into the texture whereas I became fascinated with quite the reverse; with pointing up the added sonority of bass texture even, at one point, lowering the bottom string of the second cello. I was also attracted to the idea
of initially using the viola as a sort of middle-man between the contrasting pairs of violins and cellos which often play at the extremes of their respective ranges.This grouping is immediately apparent at the opening where the outer instruments hold chords against the chanting viola. By the time we reach the end of the music a transformation has occurred and the same material emerges in a quite different light. During the journey the instruments move in and out of integration, sometimes acting as a single minded corpus but frequently returning to a state of division.The title refers not only to the reverse image that a mirror provides (reflected again in the use of pairs) but also to the idea of fragmentation, refraction and distortion.
Abstract Mirror was commissioned by The City Music Society (with funds donated by its members) and the Chilingirian String Quartet. It is in a single movement and lasts around twenty minutes.© 2002 Michael Berkeley
Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press