The last unrecorded quartet by John McCabe, No. 6, subtitled Silver Nocturnes, was finally recorded on 17th March 2017, at All Saints Church in East Finchley. The performers for what is actually a quintet, a quartet with baritone soloist, were the Sacconi Quartet and Roderick Williams.
Silver Nocturnes was commissioned by Mrs Jo Boosey in memory of her husband Simon, and the premiere of the work took place on 17th March 2012, at St Mary’s Church, Pembridge, Herefordshire, with Marcus Farnsworth and the Alberni String Quartet. It is a remarkable, though sad, coincidence that Simon died on Jo’s birthday, that the premiere of the work took place on the second anniversary of his death, and that this recording, by sheer chance, was organised for the same date, and on the fifth anniversary of the premiere and seventh of Simon’s death.
John wrote about this work, ‘Mrs Boosey was very keen to include a baritone voice along with the string quartet, an idea that had attracted me for some years (there are some splendid examples of voice with string quartet in the repertoire) and we worked out a scheme with poems by three of the so-called ‘Silver Poets’ of the 16th Century: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (one of my favourite poets), Sir Edward Dyer and Sir Philip Sidney. To act as a prelude and postlude I chose an extract from a speech by John of Gaunt, in Shakespeare’s Richard II.’
The three poems set by John are ‘Set me whereas the sun’, from Howard’s Poems of Love and Chivalry; ‘The lowest trees have tops’, by Dyer, which acts as a kind of scherzo, and the well-known poem by Sidney, ‘My true love hath my heart and I have his’.
Silver Nocturnes will be issued later this year by NMC, together with two other quintets by John McCabe, already recorded – The Woman by the Sea, with John himself joining the Sacconis on the piano, and the Horn Quintet, for which the quartet are joined by David Pyatt.