Instrumental Music
Fractured Peace
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Fractured Peace
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Rehearsal in December 2021 with Flinders Quartet plus Claire Strong and Katy Abbott for the Beethoven and the Vignettes program performed in November 2022

Fractured Peace

Written for the Flinders Quartet as a response to Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue, this quartet integrates two themes of Beethoven’s. The first is the opening theme from his Grosse Fugue fragmented into its pairs of semitones (which I’ve called the fractured theme) and the second is the melody from the prayer for communal peace from the last movement of his Missa Solemnis (which I’ve called the peace theme). The latin phrase sung to that melody is dona nobis pacem (which in English means grant us peace)


The fractured theme starts the piece and is stated using glassy harmonics and, as it progresses down through the middle instruments, it provides the basis of this piece, driving the unusual harmony. This is my nod to Beethoven’s quest to explore the boundaries of music in the Grosse Fugue and possibly symbolising a search to find a greater understanding of music and its meaning.

There are other references to the Grosse Fugue in this quartet such as using the same key signatures in reverse order, similarly with the starting and ending pitches.

The peace theme first appears as a soaring melody in the first violin, at first interacting with the fractured theme and then on its own in the viola. This theme, for me, represents Beethoven’s struggle for peace and meaning in his own life, though it is also a fairly universal struggle for all of us to varying degrees


This leads to a climax where the two themes merge and then fragment and then end abruptly. Once again the glassy harmonics appear with an ostinato theme from the Missa Solemnis, repeated three times. The latin phrase for this theme is Agnes Dei (Lamb of God). The cello repeats the dona nobis and all instruments finish with pacem (peace).

The dona nobis earlier in this piece had appeared without a subject i.e. not directed towards anyone in particular, merely a general prayer for peace. After the climax, the prayer is repeated, this time directed towards Agnes Dei (Lamb of God), This is an acknowledgement that though Beethoven was unorthodox in his faith, he was still nonetheless devout and was able to find, at times, peace.