Et in Arcadia ego


String quartet (Vl I, Vl II, Vla, Vc)

UA: 9/11/1993, Helsinki Festival, Sibelius Akademie, (Leonardo Quartett) 

CD: Leonardo Quartet, BVHAAST CD 9615 [EDISON AWARD]

Performer(s) : Leonardo Quartett

ET IN ARCADIA EGO was composed in the autumn and winter of 1991/2 at the request of the Leonardo Quartett, to whom it was promised several years ago. The title is taken from the old Latin memento, in which death whispers with unremitting zeal: “In Arcadia am I as well”.

The piece is based on a ‘matrix’ in which 4 motives are tied together in counterpoint: 1) (First violin) A motive derived from the first song of Brahms’ “Vier enste Gesänge” (Four serious songs): ‘O death, how bitter you are…’, 2) (Second violin) a vehemently capricious motive, 3) (viola) a rapidly moving figure, slowing down afterwards, and 4) (violoncello) a motive derived from the same Brahms song, however strongly modified now, which has the briefness of a sigh.

In the quartet these four principle motives are constantly varied and tied together in various combinations as we proceed, each motive alternately surfacing to become the ‘main motive’. Sometimes several figures at a time appear on the surface, sometimes one of them growing so dominating that it governs the entire movement.

The fourth motive (“Sigh”) is transformed towards the end of the movement into a serene cantilena, which links up well with the melody of the ancient Greek ‘Seikilos Song’, the 2000 years old text and melody fragment of which was discovered (in 1883) as an epitaph on a tombstone: “Does the Light smile upon you, Phainos, thus keep away from sorrow and affliction, for too brief is life’s span, time is soon to take its toll.” From this melody fragment the first half was used (in a slightly modified form).

You can download the score here: EtArcadiaego.pdf