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Heal (2020)
for string quartet
duration: 8'00''
commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand for Marmen Quartet
Programme Note by Gavin Plumley


Heal follows three earlier works for string quartet: Silhouettes from 2009; Ventus, written in 2011; and the 2016 Tōrino, drawing on the work of taonga pūoro artist Rob Thorne. In Heal, Fisher continues her highly original response to the genre, this latest piece forming part of a collection of works that she wrote as composer in residence at the New Zealand School of Music during the country’s pandemic lockdown. Its title and sustained tenor speak  to that experience, both in 2020, the year of composition, and in 2021, the year of its premiere, though Heal is dedicated to the memory of Ian Lyons, a cherished Wellington-based cellist and luthier, who died in 2015, following a short illness.

The work is a threnody of sorts, beginning with a flowing motif-cum-melody in the first violin. Its descending line is answered and taken on by the other players, who both stretch and compress the material. The cello, Lyons’s own instrument, also has a voice here, though duo and trio textures, as well as a higher tessitura, indicate poignant absence as much as vocal presence. Hypnotic pulsing clusters come in the wake of these conversant lines and, at moments, the intensity threatens to break the prevailingly unobtrusive dynamic. When that force is found, it prompts a rich plunge into the depths of the cello’s range – and that of the ensemble as a whole. Finally, the shape of the initial motif is inverted, as the quartet rises to evanescence.

© Gavin Plumley, 2021 – Originally published by the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin for the Marmen Quartet on 22 September 2021. Reproduced with permission. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited. 

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