These four scores comprise 2 A4 format scores for the
String Quartet and the Nocturne and Scherzo and Scherzo (both
for string quintet) and a slightly larger format for the score and
parts for the two quintets.
Introductory notes in each score come, with the highest
authority, from Michael Kennedy.
At the composer’s death in 1958 there was a wish that
these works of a young composer aged between 26 and 34 should not be
performed. They have lain in the British Library since that date. Now
the composer’s widow has agreed to their being made available. The works
have already been performed by the RCM Chamber Ensemble sat the British
Library Conference Centre on 20 February 2001. It is timely that these
scores were published at pretty well the same time as the issue of a
Hyperion double CD including these works. Without that set I would not
have been able to tell you much beyond praising the exemplary printing
quality and practical ‘lay-flat’ design of these scores.
Your expectations in the case of these chamber works
need to be tempered to reflect the fact that they are early works predating
Towards the Unknown Region and A Sea Symphony each of
which carries a whiff of Stanford and a larger helping of Parry.
My fearful expectations of a Brahmsian brew were misplaced
in the case of the Piano Quintet. In fact the music is cast in
a mould rather similar to Howells' piano quartet of some ten years later
- exultant and surging with romantic power. There is a Parryesque quality
here which I can best compare with that composer’s First Symphony (William
Boughton's long-vanished Nimbus recording represents the work best).
The quintet ends in confident understatement rather than romantic exclamation.
The earliest work is the String Quartet of
1898. Michael Kennedy has suggested similarities with Dvořák and
I would not disagree although I would add that there is a Mozartian
steadiness and dignity about the writing too. This piece offers a fascinating
insight but is by no means de rigueur for RVW partisans.
Brahmsian expectations or fears are soundly delivered
in the case of the D Major Quintet. This is a work that would
pair rather well with the Brahmsian delights of John Ireland's Sextet.
The wittily well-pointed Intermezzo is succeeded by the sentiment-heavy
Andantino and the flighty and flirtatious bustle of the finale.
The work ends with a regal flourish.
The 1904 Scherzo for string quintet seethes
with brusque energy counter-pointed by an appealingly Brahmsian second
subject - lilting and aristocratic. The bipartite Nocturne and Scherzo
is much more folk-inflected with a moving Nocturne that for
me carries hints Scandinavian nights. The Scherzo buzzes with Mendelssohnian
It is a feather in Faber Music’s cap that they have
secured the rights to publish these scores which often in equal measure
will delight as well as cast light on the early rise to maturity of
a composer of international standing. Easily recommendable to the composer’s
many enthusiasts world-wide.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Early Works
String Quartet in C minor (1898)
Score (0-571-52085-5) £8.95
Set of parts (0-571-52176-2) £16.96
Quintet in D major (1898)
for clarinet, horn, violin, cello and piano
Piano score and parts (0-571-51983-0) £24.95
Piano Quintet in C minor (1903)
for violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano
Piano score and parts (0-571-51953-9) £24.95
Nocturne and Scherzo (1906) with Scherzo (1904)
for string quintet ( violins, 2 violas and cello)
Score (0-571-51993-8) £8.95
Set of parts (0-571-52175-4) £16.95
Available from FM Distribution:
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