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String Quartets by Kevin Malone, David Ellis, John Casken, Robin Walker, Geoffrey Poole and Anthony Gilbert.
Coull Quartet, Nossek Quartet, the Lindsays, Camerata Ensemble
ASC records may be ordered directly from ASC Productions, 145a Chester Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 8PT. 01625 423605

Kevin Malone's Fast Forward is a short energetic piece full of fine string writing and imagination. "It is a monothematic piece based on the first five notes of a minor scale, a fragment which obsessively grows into thick textures until finally in a Hollywood ending, as though Philip Glass had finally signed a contract with Stephen Spielberg" (thus the anonymous insert notes [the composer's?]). This engaging piece which incidentally is not as minimalist as suggested by the above quotation, exists in several instrumentations: string orchestra, saxophone quartet and harpsichord solo. It provides for an entertaining opener to this most varied release. I have already commented upon David Ellis' String Quartet No.2 (1966). It is a substantial piece of music which I find most impressive and an unjustly neglected work that vastly repays repeated hearings. It receives a wonderful reading by the Coull Quartet. John Casken's String Quartet No.2 (1993) and first performed by the Lindsays in 1994. It falls into four highly contrasted movements: "with piquant verve", "with jazzy obstinacy" (a fast moving scherzo), "with haunted fascination" (a deeply moving slow movement) and "with playful determination". The final product is a very fine, quite approachable work of substance that deserves to be better known. It is also less radical than its predecessor recorded years ago by WERGO (WER 60096 [1984] - nla). It should anyway appeal to all those who enjoyed Casken's recent works such as the Cello Concerto, Vaganza or Maharal Dreaming. A superb performance by the Lindsays.

Robin Walker, born in 1953, is a name new to me. His string quartet piece I Thirst (i.e. the fifth of The Seven Last Words) is a very beautiful, moving short work, "a ritual of solo melody, homophony and biting figuration". A very fine piece indeed which has whetted my appetite for hearing more of this composer's music. Geoffrey Poole's String Quartet No. 2 (1990) is another substantial piece of music somewhat influenced by Poole's fascination with African music strengthened by his two year stay in Kenya. I enjoyed it enormously and I sincerely hope that others will do so too. Anthony Gilbert's String Quartet No. 3 (super hoqueto David/Machaut) is a fairly short piece packed with invention, imagination and energy. "The form is simple : Trope - ornamented text - trope - text, the forms and the material for the tropes being drawn from aspects of the original" (Anthony Gilbert): a most engaging work.

This is a most welcome release which provides for a fine survey of some recent string quartets, some of which are quite substantial works likely to appeal to all those who enjoy the warm lyricism deployed by the various composers featured in this collection. The performances by the Lindsays [Casken], the Coull Quartet [Ellis], the Camerata Ensemble [Malone, Walker] and the Nossek Quartet [Gilbert], mostly BBC broadcasts of live performances are all generally very fine and I urge anyone to get this CD which I unreservedly recommend.


Hubert Culot


Hubert Culot

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