opens this disc. It is an energetic
piece, with punchy rhythms and varied
textures. A tonal work, the strong
rhythms and accents give a dramatic
framework, and minimalist influences
are clearly sensed. This makes for
a breathtaking opening, with the Fell
Quartet demonstrating slick ensemble
playing and a wide dynamic range.
The sound of four members of the clarinet
family playing together is, in this
context, an incredible one, with a
tonal range from the soft, organ-like
sounds of later in the work to the
strident and confident opening.
We hear two works
by Eddie McGuire, giving the disc
its title. Celtic Knotwork
is short and atmospheric; it also
exists in a version for flutes. Building
from silences, the phrases and individual
instrumental lines intertwine to create
new textures. Chinese Knotwork
uses pentatonic scales to take
the listener to the orient, with the
four instrumental parts sharing equal
importance and developing phrases
and structures through trills and
bubbling semiquaver passages. Both
works are enjoyable textural studies,
with a fresh approach to writing for
this kind of ensemble. It works well
and demonstrates understanding of
the tonal qualities of the instruments.
Pierre Max Dubois’s
Quatuor is a charming piece
in four short movements, with a distinct
circus feel and a clear Stravinskian
influence. This performance captures
the essence of the work well, and
one senses that the players are enjoying
the music. The slow movement has some
beautifully expressive playing and
wonderful contrasts of tone colour.
Lenny Sayers is a
member of the quartet, and also the
composer of the work, For Four,
written for the ensemble in 2001.
The haunting opening, with its twisting
melodies and harmonies builds into
a highly energetic rhythmic dance,
a quirky waltz and a whirlwind adventure.
Sayers is clearly an extremely talented
musician, and this, for me, is the
highlight of the disc. The ensemble
gives a flawless performance of an
The oldest piece
on the disc, Alfred Uhl’s Divertimento
was composed for the Vienna Philharmonic’s
clarinet section in 1942. Unsurprisingly,
it has a distinctly Germanic feel,
and brings to mind a more light-hearted
adaptation of Hindemith’s neo-classicism.
This is a substantial and far-reaching
work, which provides significant musical
challenges for the performers. The
Fell Quartet meets these head-on and
delivers a fine and well considered
Mardale Changes opens gently,
with repeated melodic phrases heard
across the ensemble. Undergoing gradual
transformations, the music is based
on the sound of the bells of the sunken
The final work presented
here is Piazzolla’s Histoire du
Tango, more usually heard in its
versions for flute or violin and guitar.
Based on an arrangement for saxophone
quartet, this is something of a quirky
affair, which nevertheless works well.
This is an excellent
debut CD, and one that is highly enjoyable.
This young quartet has developed an
interesting and varied programme of
new music which is both accessible
and well composed. The quality of
the repertoire is matched by the quality
of the playing. This is a group with
a bright future.