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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Stephen DODGSON (b.1924)
String Quartet No.3 (1989) [27:58]
String Quartet No.4 (1993) [27:11]
Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet (1973) [19:03]
Tippett Quartet
Craig Ogden (guitar) 
rec. St Silas Church, Chalk Farm, London, January 2007 
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7214 [74:58]
Experience Classicsonline

You will find that an earlier disc [CDLX 7182] presented the Quartets Nos. 1, 5, 6 and 7 of Stephen Dodgson played by the same forces, the Tippett Quartet. This second volume gives us Nos. 3 and 4 and adds the splendid Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet written for Julian Bream in 1973.
 
Whilst Dodgson has a high reputation as a guitar composer perhaps we should start with the quartets, works that have grown in stature for me with each succeeding hearing. The quartet writing is euphonious and utterly assured, marrying folkloric moments with more powerful outbursts, stylistically malleable and beautifully constructed. The Third opens with just these hues, the writing ranging from languid to emphatic all the while carried along by a genuine sense of fluidity.  The second movement is lyrically malleable and aerial with vivid, singing lines supported by changeable lower voices. In the quiet Nocturne that is the third movement – actually marked Con intensita ma leggiero  - the nervous intensity and firefly tremolandi are perhaps reminiscent of Bartók. Burnished by folkloric pizzicati the finale has a diversity of expression that reaches back to Janáček.
 
Its quartet companion was written in 1993 and shares these overlapping series of intensities and colours. Dodgson can be a sonorous composer too and these confluences lead to some fascinating sonorities, best heard in the Colloquy opening of the Fourth Quartet. It’s a five-movement work that explores precisely and concisely a vivid succession of patinas and expressive states. The muted strings in Shadowplay – the central movement – and the beautifully controlled Canzona are just two small examples of the way Dodgson varies his sound world and exchanges and colour.
 
As if these two splendid quartets were not enough we have that Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet, a work that holds everything in perfect balance. The pensive opening leads on to a fully integrated and vivid lively section. With a Scherzo as quicksilver as this you have a stage set for a concluding Chaconne of revealing eloquence  - noble, unfolding, some variations faster, some more voluble, but all contained within Dodgson’s schema with absolute sang froid.
 
The performances are worthy of the compositions, and they have moreover been splendidly and truthfully recorded and are graced by the evocative ‘Epoch’ cover art. A modern British string quartet classic.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

 


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