Sonata for string quartet was written in 1968 when I was a postgraduate student at Cambridge. Although it is an early work, and derivative of the models I was studying at the time – Bartok, Berg, Britten, Tippett and Nicholas Maw – it has the beginnings of a personality of its own, so I have included it in my list of works and allowed it out on its own. Another reason is personal and autobiographical: I remember the exact moment when the theme of the first movement came into my head. I was sitting with my parents, bored and mutinous, during Sunday evening Mass in the cold and depressing crypt of Liverpool Catholic Cathedral, and wrote the first bars of the piece on the back of an envelope.
There are three movements: a driven and intense Allegro vivace in sonata-form, a rapid Scherzo, and a slow Finale in ternary form, in which a simple chorale in C major, with a canonic variation attached to it, frames a quicker and more varied middle section. Sonata for string quartet lasts about twenty minutes.
Giles Swayne 2008