Vanity of Vanities

Programme Notes

This string quartet draws its title and inspiration from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. The opening line of the book, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2), sets the stage for a contemplation on the meaning of life. The composer uses this as a starting point to explore King Solomon’s realization, written in Ecclesiastes 1-2, that all things are ultimately transitory and fleeting.

The piece is divided into five sections that focus on various verses from Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 and 9. The first section draws on verse 5, which describes the cyclical nature of the sun rising and setting, and verse 9, which reflects on the unchanging nature of the past and the future.

In the second section, the music evokes the image of the wind blowing in various directions as described in verse 6, while the third section draws on the metaphor of rivers flowing into the sea without filling it up, as described in verse 7.

The fourth section reflects on the cyclical nature of life and death, as described in verse 4, where one generation passes away, and another takes its place, while the earth remains. The final section encompasses verses 1:4-7 and 9, tying the various themes together into a cohesive whole.

Year of Composition:

7 minutes 30 seconds

2 violins, viola and cello

10 June 2020 (Thu)
Lee Hysan Concert Hall, CUHK

Cong Quartet