Music in Miniature - Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts

Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts
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Music in Miniature

This piece was written on 18 March 2018

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I used to listen to the BBC’s long-running, weekly half-hour radio programme Music in Miniature’. The signature tune of the programme was a truly delightful piece for string quartet in which the 1st violin played the simple but haunting tune while the others played the gentle, rocking, pizzicato accompaniment. Then, one day in 1952 when my school was talking about forming a string quartet, I asked my Music Teacher at Salford Grammar School, Dr Llifon Hughes Jones, if he knew what the tune was. Dr Jones told me that it was the 3rd movement of Haydn’s String Quartet Op 3 No 5. I borrowed the score from the Henry Watson Music Lending Library in Manchester (I could not afford to buy a copy) and taught myself to play the 1st Violin part of the slow movement before returning the score to the library.

Above: That's me practising in 1951 in the garden of our Salford house (outside because my simple Box Brownie camera had no flash!!)
A few days ago, as I was idly browsing through Spotify’s vast catalogue of classical music, I suddenly thought of that tune which had haunted me so many years ago. It's funny how my octogenarian memory works. I could remember every note of the piece and every repeat the composer had written in, and I could remember that it was from a Haydn string quartet - but not which one. It was impossible to work through every Haydn string quartet in the Spotify catalogue so eventually I admitted defeat.

However, another of the strange serendipitous events that have cropped up from time to time during my life occurred last night (17 March 2018) about midnight. Having had a surfeit of news about the diplomatic spat between Russia and UK concerning nerve gases, I switched my bedside radio to Classic FM and I found that the record already being played was that very Haydn piece I still remember vividly from my teenage years. This time I could remember which string quartet it was – only to be disabused when the presenter, Myleene Klass, pointed out that the piece was actually written not by Joseph Haydn but by Roman Hoffstetter – someone I had never heard of. Wikipedia tells me that Hoffstetter himself wrote: "Everything that flows from Haydn's pen seems to me so beautiful and remains so imprinted on my memory that I cannot prevent myself now and again from imitating something as well as I can."

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