> PICKARD Quartets [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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John PICKARD (born 1963)
String Quartet No.2 (1993)
String Quartet No.3 (1994)
String Quartet No.4 (1997/8)
Sorrel Quartet
Recorded: The Maltings, Snape, December 2001
DUTTON CDLX 7117 [66:21]



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John Pickard, now in his late thirties, has a considerable body of substantial works to his credit, including three symphonies and four string quartets as well as numerous orchestral and instrumental works. (Some time ago, his Piano Sonata and his piano piece A Starlit Dome were released on Athena ATH CD 15.)

The String Quartet No.2 dates from 1993. It is a compact single movement work falling into three distinct and very contrasted sections. The quite animated opening section leads into a beautifully lyrical slow movement featuring an impassioned viola solo. This is followed by a lively Finale "culminating in an energetic and optimistic conclusion".

The String Quartet No.3 is in three movements of some substance. The first movement opens with an angry gesture and the turbulent mood of the ensuing music gets some considerable momentum, interrupted by a more lyrical second subject progressively leading to a powerful restatement of the opening theme. This leads straight into the slow movement, a slow, intense meditation reaching an impassioned climax before slowly reverting to the calmer mood of the opening. The last movement is a beautiful, consolatory piece of music bringing this wonderful work to its peaceful conclusion.

The String Quartet No.4, completed in 1998 and dedicated to the Sorrel Quartet who have given several concert performances of the Third String Quartet, is a quite different work. The first movement Sinfonia, roughly cast in the form of a classical overture (slow introduction followed by an Allegro section) acts as a stately prelude. The second movement Concerti is quite unusual. It is, according to the composer, "a set of impudent character sketches of its dedicatees" and a quite unorthodox piece of music. It opens with the quartetís tuning. Then each member of the quartet has her own solo: a slightly ironic waltz for the viola, a mock Italian Concerto for the second violin and an intense recitative for the cello. In each concerto, the first violin however tries to take over and eventually manages to do so in the fourth concerto, "a mad gallop", which finally falls apart and the music simply peters away. The long final movement Fantasia of Four Parts is a quite serious matter in which Pickardís contrapuntal mastery is evident throughout. It opens ruminatively and slowly speeds up to reach the exuberant conclusion.

Though obviously from the same pen, each quartet has its own character. Pickardís models are fairly evident, i.e. Bartók and Shostakovich, though he clearly manages to be his own man. His magnificent string quartets (I wish I could hear the First some time) are worthy successors of those by Bartók, Shostakovich or John McCabe, and certainly do not pale when compared with these masterpieces.

The Sorrel Quartet, who have already put us much in their debt with their previous recordings, play with dedication and conviction. They obviously love the music and relish every ounce of it. Their performances, superbly recorded, could hardly be better and serve the music well. I for one hope that this very fine release will soon trigger further recordings of Pickardís personal, gripping music and one may perhaps look forward to hearing the symphonies soon.

Hubert Culot





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