String quartet #3
(sonata distorta)

Jeffrey Ryan
Jeffrey Ryan
Composition Date: 2006
Duration: 00:12:15
Genre: Strings (bowed), Solo / Ensemble, Quartet (2 Violin / Viola / Cello)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 2 x Violin
  • 1 x Viola
  • 1 x Violoncello
Click here to download full work (7.32 Mb - Not printable)

Programme Note:
Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata takes place in a train compartment, where a quiet but intense man relates to a fellow traveler the tale of how he came to murder his wife. As he describes the early days of his marriage and the events that led him to that fateful night, it becomes clear that he is a complete misogynist, deeply tormented and repulsed by sexuality, seeing women as devils for enticing innocent men into depravity, and believing that between husband and wife there is an uncrossable abyss and an innate hostility that is covered up by the sexual act.
When his wife accompanies the violinist Trukhachevski at the piano for a performance of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, his torment takes a focus. He feels transformed by the music, yet jealous of the musical connection between his wife and her new friend, and he begins to suspect an affair, though in the novella it is not clear whether this is a reality or a product of his tormented imagination.
It is easy to see why Tolstoy chose Beethoven’s sonata as the trigger. Particularly in the first movement, the chromaticism, the unsettledness of the tonality, the short phrases interrupted by extemporisation, and the underlying sense of frenetic panic, all mirror his feelings of jealousy and lack of control.
In this one-movement work, String Quartet #3 (sonata distorta) attempts to enter the protagonist’s tormented mind as he rushes home, convinced he will find his wife with Trukhachevski. Elements from Beethoven’s work appear distorted at various levels in the music, from the sonata’s opening melody here played out obsessively in slow motion as the harmony dissolves, to the imagined mocking laughter implied by the rhythm of Beethoven’s closing gigue. Disconnected thoughts are reflected by the music’s sudden shifts between dense and oppressive repeated patterns and the “harmony” of idealized love. In a central slow section, soft sustained chords call out to a devastating emptiness, in their futility becoming more and more dissonant, leading to a final section that conveys the rising intensity and singularity of purpose that propels him to the drawing-room door.
String Quartet #3 (sonata distorta) was commissioned by the Penderecki Quartet with funding from Music Toronto.

Premiere Information:
02/03/2006 Jane Mallett Theatre Toronto, ON Penderecki String Quartet


  • Call Number:
  • MI 3134 R988st3
  • Genre:
  • Strings (bowed), Solo / Ensemble, Quartet (2 Violin / Viola / Cello)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • August 10, 2009
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (27 p.) ;
    27 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
  • Additional Information:

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String Quartet #3 (sonata Distorta): Score
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String quartet #3 (sonata distorta) by Jeffrey Ryan (Score)
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String quartet #3 (sonata distorta)
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