John Reeman describes
his Scena for string quartet as mini-drama. The
four characters are introduced in the early stages of the work.
At first the music unfolds as a series of monologues and dialogues,
but increasing tension leads into an animated central section
in which all four characters share some rather heated argument.
Thereafter, tension lessens and the music drifts away calmly
in a beautiful epilogue played by the violins in their upper
registers. A really nice work in every respect.
String Quartet No.4 is in four movements, the
last three being a large-scale sets of variations on material
presented in the short first movement (‘Chants’). The second
movement (“Variations 1-45 – energetic, folky”) is an animated
Scherzo unfolding “at breakneck speed”, mostly played pizzicato
“with arco breaks”. In full contrast, the third movement
(“Variations 46-51 – calm, intense”) is a strongly expressive,
deeply felt Passacaglia, actually the emotional core of the
work. The tension accumulated in the preceding movements is
eventually released in the finale (“Variations 52-60 – play
dirty”) ending “with a chopped-off restatement of the first
variation”, thus bringing the work full circle. Gilbert’s Fourth
String Quartet is an intricately worked-out piece of music and
a compositional tour de force; but, as in many recent
works by Gilbert, the communicative power of the music predominates.
This is the sure mark of a master in full command of his aims
and means. This substantial structure is without doubt the major
work in this release.
Ellis’s String Quartet No.3 Op.70 is in two substantial
movements separated by a short interlude, of which the first
is the most complex. It opens with a rather solemn introduction
leading into a dance-like section; but, as it unfolds, the music
alternates dance-like, animated sections and slower sections
that often sound like varied restatements of the introduction,
so that the first movement may be said to combine a sonata allegro
and slow movement. The interlude hardly functions as a Scherzo,
but rather as a short bridge into the second movement. This
opens with an arresting, energetic fanfare. Allusions to the
slow movement’ music and a “veiled fugue” briefly interrupt
the forceful flow of the music that eventually ends abruptly.
Quartet No.4 is a single movement consisting of “fourteen
vignettes deriving from Wuthering Heights;
but the music is neither programmatic nor descriptive. This
concise, colourful work may be experienced as a series of short
studies in mood or as a short tone poem vividly suggesting the
desolate, barren and wind-swept Yorkshire moors.
were made at different locations, which accounts for some differences
in acoustics, particularly in the case of Gilbert’s Fourth String
Quartet which – to my ears – was more closely recorded; but
the recordings are all very fine. The performances are strongly
committed and convincing. This is a very fine release with four
appealing works that clearly deserve to be heard more than once.
I enjoyed it enormously.
see also Review
by Christopher Thomas