Australian chamber music in the 1960s and 1970s, recorded by the Kreutzer Quartet.(New Project)

Posted on June 18th, 2013 by

The Kreutzer Quartet are delighted and excited to be involved in a new  project, put together by our friend and colleague, Michael Hooper, who is Research Fellow at UNSW (The University of New South Wales), to record the music of  Australian composers, Don Banks, Nigel Butterley, Richard Meale, and Felix Werder. 

The Kreutzers recording Butterley, 17th September 2013 (Photo: Michael Hooper)

Recording Day 1 -September 17th 2013 Saint John the Baptist, Aldbury – Kreutzer Quartet, assisted by Michael Hooper and Engineer Jonathan Haskell

Here are outtakes:

Nigel Butterley – String Quartet 1965 Lento – Allegro

Butterley wrote about his quartet: 

The work derives its structure, as well as it whole area of feeling from Henry Vaughan’s (1621-1695) poem, ‘The Revival’/

Unfold! Unfold! Take in His light,

Who makes thy cares more short than night.

The joys which with His day-star rise

He deals to all but drowsy eyes;

And, what the men of this world miss

Some drops and dews of future bliss.


Hark! How His winds have chang’d their note!

And with warm whispers call thee out;

The frosts are past, the storms are gone,

And backward life at last comes on.

The lofty groves in express joys

Reply unto the turtle’s voice;

And here in dust and dirt, O here

The lilies of His love appear!

Nigel Butterley’s Quartet (1965), 2nd Movement, on the practice desk

Recording Day 2 19th September 2013

Don Banks: String Quartet (1975)

Felix Werder: Consort Music (1964)

Richard Meale: String Quartet No. 1 (1974)

Richard Meale in 1965. (ABC Archives)

Richard Meale in 1965. (ABC Archives)


The project is to record a CD of music by Australian composers that was written in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Don Banks: String Quartet (1975): 14’

Nigel Butterley: String Quartet No. 1 (1965): 13’

Richard Meale: String Quartet No. 1 (1974): 20’

Felix Werder: String Quartet No. 8 (1964): 12’

Don Banks: Sequence for solo cello (1967): 13’


To be released on ‘Move Records’

Michael Hooper writes:

• Butterley’s quartet is an early work, written soon after his return to Australia having studied with Priaulx Rainier. It displays clearly his exploration of Rainier’s practices (her work Quanta in particularly), and Tippett (particularly the Third Quartet). It is a striking work, prefaced by a poem Henry Vaughan (‘Unfold, unfold! take in his light’). It has all the hallmarks of later Butterley, forging new directions for Australian music, whilst connecting to English practice. The work is somewhat serial, beginning rigorously before pursuing other ideas; the way in which he works through serial and motivic material condences around the fifth and the semitone, the intervals that continue to characterize his music. The Kreutzer Quartet’s experience at performing Tippett and Rainier is a significant asset to the project.

• Richard Meale’s String Quartet No. 1 is his first acknowledged quartet (their being an earlier withdrawn work). It comes at the hight of his avant-garde period, following Coruscations, Incredible Floridas and Evocations. At this point he was well known internationally, published by Universal Edition, and played extensively both in Australian and abroad. The quartet is in two parts: ‘Variations’ and ‘far away’. My recent research has uncovered Meale’s directions to performers, not published with the score, in which he suggests that performers add ornamentation to the first section (quarter-tone fluctuations, for example), and that for the second section the players move to the back of the stage, facing away from each other. The second section relies on the hightened listening that the seating arrangement requires. The unsighted coordination of performers within an ensemble is an idea that the Kreutzer Quatet has used to perform Schnittke, and it related closely to the coordination challenges at the heart of Michael Finnissy’s Third Quartet (which they recently commissioned and released on NMC).

• Felix Werder’s output includes an extensive array of quartets, of which the eighth is one of the most interesting. Like Meale’s, it challenges the coordination of lines within the quartet (and therefore continues the tradition of associating string quartets with four individual voices), and its subtitle ‘Consort Music’ also points to earlier associations of very different sounding instruments within a single group. The quartet alternates between extremes, forming a chain of opposite materials: one section will be homorhythmic, the next barely coheres; one section will be played sul tasto, the next with extreme bow pressure.

• Don Banks’ String Quartet was written for the Austral quartet (as was the Butterley). It is formed in a single movement and is thoroughly serial. In many ways its trajectory is close to Butterley’s, since both begin quietly, and unfold from the cello. This opening strand builds to several homophonic chords, and the work makes use of serial procedures to build continuously changing harmonies. (Banks’ own analysis of the work refers to Roberto Gerhard’s Second Quatet, which the Kreutzer Quartet has performed and recorded.) In many ways this is the most substancial of the works, the most consistent, planned, and the most monumental. It provides an ideal contrast with the other muisc. The final track, Sequence for solo cello, picks up the opening and closing line of his quartet, forming a coda for the CD.

One of the aspects of the era of the composition of the music was the international mindedness of the composers, and this project will pick up those ideas, exploring some of the ways in which the music connects to international practices. It will also clarify some of the ways in which this music is uniquely Australian, and underlines some of the preoccupations shared by Banks, Butterley, Meale and Werder. It is therefore appropriate that the project should bring together performers based in London (but born in a variety of countries), with a CD label based in Melbourne, of music by a diverse collection of composers who are all central to understandings of Australian music. This is new work, which will make apparent – in some ways for the first time – this music for string quartet.