Douglas Weiland (b.1954) is a British composer and violinist, one of the founders of the Australian String Quartet. He is the composer who received the most commissions from The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields under Neville Marriner. It is easy to hear why.
Weiland’s music is rigorous, skilful, taut in counterpoint, clean in texture, mellifluous, tonal but not in a dated or restrictive way, and structurally traditional. You might call it the relaxed version of Modernism. His quartets eschew the thick writing of an older generation, such as Tippett, but also lack the individual profile of Britten––yet Weiland is clearly British: The gentle second movement of Quartet No. 5, titled “Siciliana La Toscana” sounds much more English than Italian. Shostakovich has some influence, notably in the pizzicato Scherzo of the Fourth Quartet, but the Russian’s irony and underlying desperation are absent. (Weiland cites his main influence here as Schubert; certainly, the harmony is reminiscent of Shostakovich.)
Both quartets begin with a tentative statement of a thematic motif. Weiland plants a seed from which the music instantly begins to grow (almost literally, in the case of the remarkable first movement of No 4). The quartet medium is clearly important to him as a genuine means of expression, and his string writing has the authority of a professional.
These pieces, from 2011 and 2012 respectively, were composed for William Hennessy, first violin of the Melbourne Quartet and former leader of the ASQ. The performances could not be bettered, and the recording is perfectly balanced.
Works: String Quartets Nos 4 & 5
Performers: The Melbourne Quartet
Label: NAXOS 8574028