Smyth: String Quartet in E Minor

october COMPOSER: dame ethel smyth

Ethel Smyth

string quartet in e minor, 1902-12

String Quartet in E minor is one of Dame Ethel Smyth’s most popular works. She began the quartet in 1902 then abandoned it to work on an opera. She didn’t pick it up again until ten years later when she wrote the final two movements. In those intervening years significant events happened in Smyth’s life: she became an active part of the Suffragette movement and she lost her close companion Henry Brewster. Both of these — her grief over Henry and her desire to show other women what could be achieved — heavily influenced the final composition. String Quartet was Smyth’s first published quartet (she wrote a couple of others while studying in Leipzig). It is a bold and stirring piece, but not without its playful elements. It’s said by many to have been the composition where Smyth found her voice.

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