My first Brass Quartet was written in 1968, immediately after I finished my studies at the Royal Academy of Music, and was in response to a request from my then publisher, R Smith & Co, to write some chamber music for brass band instruments. It is scored for two cornets, horn and euphonium. In the same year I also wrote another quartet (No. 2) which is scored for the more unusual combination of two horns, baritone, and tuba.
The First Quartet is really a miniature in terms of length, lasting less than six minutes. However, it packs a lot of punch in its two connected movements, a Prelude and a Capriccio. The Prelude is lyrical in style and opens with a rising figure (covering a major seventh) on euphonium answered by muted cornets. These ideas form the material for the movement which is arch shape in structure. The opening returns, immediately followed by a transition passage which leads directly into the turbulent Capriccio. This is rather Bartokian in style (I was very influenced by Bartok in my student days and had closely studied his six string quartets), in the manner of a Hungarian dance in 5/8 time. The constantly changing metric patterns give the music a rather disruptive quality, but also an opportunity for the players to show their virtuoso abilities.