The Virtuoso String Quartet - Volume 2
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
String Quartet in G minor Op.10 (1893) [25:11]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
String Quartet Op.44 No.3 — Second Movement (1838) [3:53]
Carl Ditters von DITTERSDORF (1739-1799)
String Quartet No.5 in E flat — Minuet (1788) [3:50]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Quartet in E flat Op.127 (1824) [32:15]
Virtuoso Quartet - Marjorie Hayward (violin); Edwin Virgo (violin); Raymond
Jeremy (viola); Cedric Sharpe (cello)
rec. 1925-26, London
HISTORIC RECORDINGS HRCD00087 [65:16]
It’s a pleasure to welcome another CD devoted to restorations of the Virtuoso
Quartet’s most distinguished 78 recordings. I reviewed
the first volume in this series some time ago. Briefly, for those unfamiliar
with the name, The Virtuoso Quartet - and its swanky name - was established
by HMV for the express purposes of recording. In its ranks were four top-notch
British chamber players. Marjorie Hayward was called the best female quartet
leader heard in London since the days of Wilma Neruda. Born in 1885 she had
studied with evčik. Her second violin was the experienced Edwin
Virgo, who had depped as second fiddle in the London Quartet between 1916
and 1917 when its resident incumbent Tommy Petre had gone off to war. Raymond
Jeremy - Bax exponent - had premiered Elgar’s late chamber works in 1919 in
a group led by Albert Sammons. And Cedric Sharpe had not long since left the
Philharmonic Quartet of which he was the most able cellist, a group led by
Arthur Beckwith with Eugene Goossens the second violin and Jeremy the violist.
The Virtuoso did play in public, essaying for instance Bax and McEwen from
manuscript in concert.
I am pleased to note that these performances, which I’ve long known in their
only appearance, on 78s, are as good as the first instalment of Franck, Beethoven’s
Op.18/6 and the little Schubert filler. In fact they pretty much establish
the Virtuoso, albeit retrospectively, as one of the finest quartets recording
in the mid to the later 1920s. This may seem like a restrictive period, but
there were an awful lot of outstanding quartets recording at the time, and
though the Virtuoso did continue until 1936, they made no recordings after
1929. The Debussy is particularly interesting in that it was also pressed
and issued in France, something of an honour for a British quartet recording
a French work — in fact my own album set is a French pressing. The opening
movement is taken at a terrific lick, and ensemble is superbly maintained.
Violist Raymond Jeremy’s tone is rather dry but he always phrased with great
imagination and subtlety. The pizzicatos of the second movement ring out in
this very well defined early electric 1925 HMV and the slow movement has a
rather lovely curve to it, Marjorie Hayward leading with effortless assurance.
The elfin Mendelssohn was a filler for the Debussy, and the Dittersdorf was
similarly so for the Beethoven.
The Beethoven transfer is slightly steelier than the Debussy but the recording
certainly manages to enshrine some explosive unisons from the quartet, especially
for the time; though it should be noted that the recording was made over a
large period of sessions, which was something of a familiar tale for this
group (September and December 1925 and September to October 1926 if you’re
counting). Hayward’s trills are of well nigh electric velocity, and again
she leads with admirable perception.
This is another well transferred, and successful release from Historic Recordings.
As usual there are no notes, but thoughtful listening will tell you that the
performances enshrined in this 65 minute disc are of genuine distinction.
Thoughtful listening will tell you that these performances are of genuine