Continuing the discoveries made in the first quartet, this work is an experiment in controlled tension and tempi. Conceived as a gradual accelerando within an overall adagio, it unfolds with an economical use of material.

Developed motivically, the content is derived initially from a mixture of dodecaphonic and octatonic procedures presented with an ever-increasing freedom. The relaxing of pitch class control serves to run concomitantly with the gradual release of tension as the quartet gathers momentum.

The economy of material is offset by the constantly changing textures and varied presentation of motifs; despite an apparent repetition of some thematic and harmonic figures there is continual contextual development.

The numerous tempi changes (there are sixteen in all, from quaver = 62 – 122) are intended to be approximate – within a reasonable tolerance – but careful rehearsal will reveal the implicit tension behind these.

Abandoning the free atonality of the String Quartet No. 1, this work also continues the experimentation made in Piano Concerto, whereby the serial writing is overlaid (or underpinned) with some tonal overlay, but this may not always be overly apparent.

The note row in this quartet is identical to the one from the Andante of Berg’s Lyric Suite – ‘borrowed’ because Berg clearly foresaw the tonal suggestions and melodic potential within. It contains three tonal groups: minor chords on D# (notes 2, 3 and 4) and F (notes 10, 11 and 12), and four notes from G to D within a G tonal zone.