"Inter Pares" - Arditti String Quartet
Composed between spring and autumn 2000, Inter Pares was commissioned by Dublin’s Project Arts Centre for the Arditti String Quartet, who first performed it there in September 2001. The phrase "primus inter pares" ("first among equals") has always struck me as meaningless, and of course the string quartet medium has always implied full equality between its four constituents. In my String Quartet III, each player at one stage or another attempts to steal the limelight, but is coaxed back into the fold.
The shape of the work mirrors the traditional "symphonic" four-movement form, with "slow movement" second (although it suddenly erupts into an unfinished canonic dance) and "scherzo" third (the latter features a demented homage to Irish folk music, or perhaps a critique of its abuse…). The finale, like the second movement, unexpectedly lurches into a “coda” that seems like the interrupted beginning of a completely new piece – a common enough feature in my work.
Inter Pares is based on a number of classic 4-note motifs, most significantly the BACH cryptogram. Although the work is dedicated to the Arditti Quartet, there is an implicit homage to the great composer who died 250 years before its composition.