Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Ensemble
Instrumentation: Violin, viola and cello
Length: 8 minutes
Premiere: 29 November 1991, RSAMD, Glasgow.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra String Trio


Three Angry Men! was composed as part of my composition postgraduate studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.  Each of the three string instruments has a specific sequence of notes that collectively generates a 9-pitch melodic line based around the tonal centre of E.  In the opening section marked Angrily, the trio plays around with pairs of notes in a gritty manner, the viola and cello almost glued together in opposition to the violin.  This harshness is frequently interrupted by smooth running scales and trills which provides the material for the faster middle section Furious, where constant swirling motion is at the fore.  The slow moving chords of the final Calm ascend from a low to a barely audible extreme.

Three Angry Men! was premiered at the RSAMD by the principal string players of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and has since been performed by members of the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, the Polish Aperion Ensemble, the Rothko String Trio during the 2004 BMIC’s Cutting Edge series in London and by the Cappa Ensemble during their Music Network 2010 Irish Tour.

Conrad Wilson, Glasgow Herald:

“Two men and a woman...gave the premiere at the RSAMD of Elaine Agnew’s Three Angry Men!, a succinct and prickly string trio in which the participants were requested to play not only angrily but also furiously and, finally, calmly...as a study in assertion - sharp comments, twitching Stravinsky rhythms, swinging punches, sudden interruptions, shooting scales, the music showed this postgraduate student of the RSAMD to already be a composer of considerable accomplishment.  The three interconnected movements, and the short, sure strokes with which their ideas were expressed, ran their gamut in a single musical breath; a sequence of slow, soft closing chords ascending through the register of the 3 instruments, neatly represented anger’s aftermath.”

Janet Beat, Scotsman:

“...it was an effective piece which showed that Miss Agnew has already formed her own distinctive musical voice.  It consisted of two basic yet contrasted ideas, a stabbing and vehement series of chords and a gentler but busy motive of scales and trills.  The work was closely argued with the chords sometimes brutally interrupting the quieter motive.  Eventually the conflict dissolved into a series of slow chords at the end.”