Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

William WALTON
(1902 - 1983)
String Quartet in A Minor 28'49"
Piano Quartet in D Minor * 28'37"
Maggini Quartet Peter Donohoe (pno)*
Recorded Potton Hall, Suffolk,UK. May 30 - June 1 1999 DDD Naxos 8.554646 [57'38"]

Of all the strands in William Walton's composing life - symphonies and orchestra music, film scores, choral works and opera - the handful of chamber music he wrote is probably the least known. There were eight pieces in total over a writing lifetime of about sixty years. The two featured on this new disc are his String Quartet in A Minor, written as a mature work in the mid-1940's and the early Piano Quartet. Neither work is particularly well-known, nor frequently played or recorded, so perhaps this excellent new release on a budget label will allow the curious to explore for themselves.

The A Minor String Quartet, was written during 1945 - 47 and first performed in '47. Incidentally a transcription of the work, with help from Malcolm Arnold, is extant as Sonata for Strings. It has the usual four movements, an Allegro - full of jagged rhythms and with a central fugal passage, a hard-driven, Presto second movement full of spiky wit, and a following Lento that seemed to me to be the nub of the work. Curiously I found the emotion from this movement to be contemplative and introspective, almost autumnal - strange considering that Walton was under forty when he wrote it. It ends with a rapid fire fugue. Throughout there were hints and reminders of his other works - especially his first Symphony. You know the feeling when you here a piece on the car radio - most composers have their little quirks and favourites that give them away. The recording is excellent - close but with good internal balance and the Maggini Quartet are up to their usual high standard.

We go back twenty years for the Piano Quartet. Walton wrote it as a teenager in 1918/19, revised it a couple of years later before publication in 1924. Clearly it is not a major work but one that deserves a hearing and in its four movements there is much to admire. An especially interesting Scherzando with a hushed fugal central section before the piano comes in with a big, powerful theme and the following deeply intense Andante Tranquillo with muted strings catch the ear. The Allegro Molto which opens with some ferocious attack from the strings, sounds at times like a near relative of Petrushka. A precocious work, well performed and recorded with just the merest touch of too much piano in the balance at times. A minor reservation in an enjoyable disc.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index