Robert Helps’ Program notes

The Nocturne for String Quartet

 Written in 1960, [the Nocturne] belongs to an esoteric genre of pieces that hardly ever get performed- single movement pieces for string quartet. I later incorporated the Nocturne into a yet more apt-not-to-be-performed work -a chamber music "happening" entitled Serenade, a work in three movements, performable as a single work or as separate works, of which the Nocturne is the middle movement. The first movement is for violin and piano ("Fantasy"), the third movement for piano, violin and horn ("Postlude"). The three movement version, commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation, was performed several years ago in New York City and Buffalo by the composer-pianist David Del Tredici and the Buffalo Contemporary Chamber Players.The Nocturne is very much a mood piece, the mood being in the tradition of the numerous Mahler and Bartók "night music" movements which make their appearances in these composers' string quartets and symphonic works. It is pre dominately a gentle movement "night music" heard from afar. lt does, however, have its share of "filigree" passage work and an occasional muted" climax. The combination of delicacy, even wistfulness, and consistently high register employed in all four instruments presents, I feel, an interesting performance challenge. 

Robert Helps

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