An innocent and sun-dappled work, it comes as a surprise
to hear that the First Quartet was written during the last year of the
Great War. Its three movements bubble along smilingly or serenely, throwing
off great tunes and harmonic teases with abandon. The Maggini's swoop
and etch, dance and spin the music with every appearance of carefree
ease. This is joyous, life-embracing music written in a sunny Dvorakian
dazzle. You must hear this! The outer movements develop an authentic
Wienerisch bustle and in the Rondo a spectral quality and (at
3.10 track 3) one of the loveliest tunes in all music. If you are not
very careful (and why should you be) you will find yourself whistling
the themes from the First Quartet.
This is the First Quartet's second CD recording and
both are fine though the best sound is with the Naxos. The Magginis
also make more of the lento. Whoever chose Potton Hall as the
venue for the Maggini British series chose well. The first CD recording,
still available on CD, initially appeared on LP and was from Chandos.
That however is differently coupled (with the Piano Quartet and the
The Second Quartet is at the other pole from the First.
It is a work for Bax connoisseurs rather than those wanting to find
a way into the Baxian heritage. Coeval with the Second Symphony it lacks
that work's melodic treasury but shares its vertical complexity of line.
It is by no means an ingratiating work and the contrast with the First
Quartet is stark. I must not give the impression that it is without
attraction but the complexity takes its toll and it does not speak with
immediacy. Oddly enough it made me think of the music of Eugene Goossens
especially his By the Tarn and First Quartet.
The competition is again from Chandos and again is
differently coupled. The Chandos is harnessed with the Piano Quintet
one of Bax's ten greatest works and incidentally showing that his work
from the war years could be epic, tragic and emotionally poignant as
well as carefree (vide the First Quartet)
The liner notes are by Lewis Foreman so we are guaranteed
readability, facts and opinions firmly founded on evidence.
One of last year's top ten classical discs. Roll on
the Naxos/Maggini Third Quartet - a work of symphonic impact and scale.