Elgar began his String Quartet in 1918. The opening movement allegro
moderato is typical of this composer. The music stops and starts and
never flows coherently although I must say that the Bochmanns make a fine
attempt to keep the music moving and, in this, they are to be congratulated
above the other recordings I have. As with Schubert and Franck, Elgar does
not develop his material but merely repeats it. The Bochmanns play it with
the minimum of pomposity and nobilmentes. So well do they play it
that the music sometimes does not sound like Elgar.
The sleeve notes state that Elgar was not naturally a chamber music composer.
Well, that is open to debate. He certainly was useless in writing for the
piano as seen in his piano pieces, the Violin Sonata, Op 82 and the
Piano Quintet, Op 84. His orchestral music has many flaws and he had
no gift for musical continuity and could not compose a quick movement in
entirety. His music has always an attitude; it is never free or spontaneous.
In the slow movement of the Quartet the music meanders and wallows
and often hints at something martial or ceremonial which style does not suit
The finale is marked allegro molto but it isn't ... and that
is not the Bochmanns fault. Elgar could not write an allegro. He could
not keep up the pace and momentum. Great composers like Haydn, Mozart and
Sometimes the intensity in the finale is oppressive ... but, again, this
is not the performers fault. In common parlance, they are making the best
of a bad job but it is, quite frankly, very tedious music.
The next item on the disc is in complete contrast. This is Francis Routh's
splendid Divertimento which packs more excitement and interest into
its first two minutes than Elgar does in 25!
The Divertimento is in three movements. The first is an introduction,
theme and five variations; the second makes up variations 6 to 8 and the
finale comprises variations 9 to 15 plus a coda.
There is so much to admire in this work. The opening andante moderato
is full of interest, the four-note motif given out at the very beginning
sets the scene for the material and, unlike Elgar, the music is developed
and explored in fifteen variations but the harmonic, melodic and rhythm changes
come about naturally. And yet there is no complicated exegesis. The music
proceeds naturally without self-indulgence or self-importance. I think the
vivace energico of the first movement could have been a little more
lively but the Bochmanns excel in the slow movement, a perfect adagio
reminiscent of a lullaby. The melodic interest is mainly left to the violins
but the viola and cello accompaniment is beautifully integrated. The
finale is an allegro molto which at its centre has the feel
of an approaching, passing and disappearing march. The four-note theme returns
at figure O and the final five bars are ravishingly beautiful.
It seems a pity to make any adverse comments on this fine piece which is
so well played but I do think the quick tempi are a shade too slow.
The disc ends with one of Alan Rawsthorne's finest works, the Quartet
No 3 in which the Bochmanns expertly capture the intensity without being
claustrophobic. The 'woody' quality of Rawsthorne has not been caught better.
Full booklet notes
See also earlier review by Paul Conway
Rawsthorne Website on this server
Routh website on this server