Richard ARNELL (1917-2009)
String Quartet no.1 op.4 (1939) [9:01]
String Quartet no.2 op.14 (1941) [13:16]
String Quartet no.3 op.41 in E flat major (1945) [18:28]
String Quartet no.4 op.62 (1950) [9:49]
String Quartet no.5 op.99 (1962) [14:07]
The Tippett Quartet (John Mills (violin); Jeremy Isaac (violin); Julia O'Riordan (viola); Bozidar Vukotic (cello))
rec. St Paul’s Church, New Southgate, London, 6, 10, 13 May 2010
World premiere recordings
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7268 [65:33]

Having recorded all Arnell's symphonies Dutton now minister to the string quartets. They here emerge in their world premiere recordings - definitive too as were Dutton's nine other Arnell discs. These works date from between 1939 and 1962.

The overture length First Quartets evinces utter confidence in an idiom that is densely and warmly melodic - a little like a mediation between early Fauré and early Tippett. The 1941 Second Quartet is in three movements and was premiered in New Jersey. It is rife with Tippett-like triggers and releases of lyrical current. Once again the milieu is warm and affluently stocked with ideas. No sign of dissonance but in the finale there is a fervent Beethovenian propulsion to the progress and shape of the music.

The Third was written in the USA but waited until 1949 before being premiered by the Blech Quartet - typically for Arnell, at the Cheltenham Festival. Again it's a work of potent lyrical release with no hint of 12 tone material - not even a slight Bergian pepper. The finale occasionally suggests an affection for Bartók. The Fourth Quartet is from 1950. Again it is about the length of a concert overture and is in one span. It immerses itself in real tunes and knows how to present and develop them with a blazing and enthusing fervour.

The Fifth Quartet is in seven movements and runs to around quarter of an hour. Robert Matthew-Walker writes in his useful liner-note that this 1952 work is an extraordinary structural premonition of Britten's Third Quartet on 1975. It is more sombre than its predecessors though just as fervent. The melodic element is still present though soused in a troubled harmonic world typical of late Shostakovich.

This disc presents a powerful cycle of string quartets in powerfully projected and acted performances and recordings. The recording balance here is nothing short of red-blooded.

Rob Barnett

Rob Barnett

World premiere recordings - definitive too. An impressive cycle of string quartets in powerfully projected and acted performances and recordings.