String Quartet No.4
The Music in Edvard Munch’s Three Paintings
by Brian Chatpo Koo

Inspired by three of Edvard Munch’s pictures, this string quartet consists of three movements in the following order:

  1. The Dance of Life
  2. Melancholy
  3. Scream

The order of these three pictures seemingly represents the artist’s cataclysmic experiences of his life and his philosophy – longing for love, sadness for lost family and friends, and expounding the merciless reality of life – a fearful, infinite scream.

The first movement, The Dance of Life is dominated by cheerful music throughout depicting Munch’s stages of womanhood: youth and innocence; love and passion, and inexorable coming of old age.

The second movement ‘Melancholy’ is a slow, quiet and pensive movement, expressing one’s feeling of gloom.
The last movement ‘Scream’ is full of fear and uneasiness. In this movement, a soprano recites the text written by Munch.

Composed in 1999. Presented by Arditti Quartet in ‘Composer Workshop’ Wednesday 18 February 2009, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, Vic. Reported by Mark Viggiani:

“…. Brian Koo’s String Quartet No. 4 featured flowing textures and chromatic bands of sound – an evocative work, in which much use was also made of slow upward glissandi and microtonal slides. After much discussion and many suggestions, the sight-reading Quartet then proceeded to do exactly what the composer had requested, revealing the awesome chemistry and empathy that can evolve in an experienced ensemble.”