RTC-01: 1949 String Quartet No. 1

Length: 23 min.
Premiere: 1949-07-31, Berkshire Music Centre, Tanglewood-Lenox, Massachusetts. Hans Heinz Schneeberger, Jan Turkiewicz, Emile Simonel, Charles Brennand

  1. 2001-03-24, University of Manitoba Str. Qt.
  2. 2003-12-06, Chrysler Concert Hall, Sooke, BCKate Rhodes, Chloe Kohut, Mieka Kohut, Joyce Ellwood

Publication: CMC

Robert Turner’s String Quartet No. 1 was premiered at the Tanglewood Music Festival on 31 July 1949 and received favourable comments from Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. In the program, however, this work is entitled “String Quartet No. 2″ – a fact that needs some explanation.

In the summer of 1947, Robert Turner travelled to Colorado College (Colorado Springs, CO) to study composition with Roy Harris. It was here at Colorado College that Robert Turner met his future wife, Sara Scott. The actual first string quartet was written either before or during this summer at Colorado College and was performed there by students of well-known guest instructor Josef Gingold: these included Joseph Silverstein (later concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and three other outstanding young string players. Turner later withdrew (and possible destroyed) this work, as he had done with all other compositions written prior to July 1949.

On 13 August 1949, two weeks after the premiere of this String Quartet, a set of choral pieces by Robert Turner entitled “Choral Cadences” was also presented at the Composers’ Forum in Tanglewood under the direction of Aaron Copland and Irving Fine. These “cadences” were performed with the assistance of the Small Choir of Department V, conducted by Hugh Ross. It is an interesting “coincidence” that Hugh Ross first came to Canada from England in 1921 to conduct the Winnipeg Male Voice Choir – and was succeeded in this position in 1927 by Douglas Clarke, who had been Robert Turner’s composition instructor at McGill University! The score of the “Choral Cadences” has also been “lost” or destroyed.