Quoting Saxton: My Fantazia for String Quartet was complete in December 1993 in response to a commission from the London International String Quartet Competition for a test piece for the 1994 competition. Funds were provided by the John S Cohen Foundation.
The title gives the clue to the nature of the music: the viol fantasia was the chosen form of composition for the greatest English composers of the mid-seventeenth century, Lawes, Jenkins, Ferrabosco in particular. They inherited the techniques of vocal polyphony from Byrd and Gibbons and forged a new, instrumental polyphonic style. The culmination of this genre was reached in the magnificent works of Henry Purcell around 1680, and it was Purcell who adopted the spelling ‘Fantazia’.
I have always loved this music, and when asked to write a short piece for strings, I decided to pay tribute to this under-rated tradition. Most fantazias consisted of short, joined sections, and I have expanded this to create and eight-minute piece in three larger sections, the essence being contrapuntal interplay and equality of part-writing. (Any idea of stylistic reference would be absurd ion the late twentieth century). The first section is a lyrical allegro moderato which leads into a sustained and intense slow movement; this, in turn, gives way to a final quick section of a dancing character, a feature frequently encountered in Purcell’s own consort pieces.