Though there seems no overriding logic at work here, let me
suggest that youth is the major emblem of this disc. Walton
was a teenager when he wrote his Piano Quartet, though it wasn’t
published until 1924 and he continued, as was his wont, to tinker
with it for many years. It’s heard in the 1976 revision. Lekeu’s
uncompleted Piano Quartet was written in 1893, the year before
his very early death. It received a recording on 78, published
in Britain by Decca - a fine recording, never since reissued
- but it’s also garnered a few recordings on CD. Bridge’s Phantasy,
part of the Cobbett competition vogue, was written when he was
31, so it’s the product of a man, in comparison, greatly stricken
in years, though it does date from Bridge’s most exciting and
vital early period.
Walton’s quartet is full of energy and excitement, and was soon
being played by some of the best British chamber groups of the
time, most notably the Chamber Music Players (Sammons, Tertis,
Kennedy, and Murdoch) who took it into their repertoire in the
early 1930s. The supple second movement, a sizzling scherzo,
is especially attractive, with just a few, possibly unexpected
Vaughan Williams fingerprints. The warm cantilena of the slow
movement is another highlight, its yearning directness finely
judged in this performance, where dynamics are well shaded,
and its relatively extended length well sustained. The increasingly
introverted expression is also conveyed with assurance. Trenchancy
is a characteristic of the finale, a blunt rhythmic dynamism
that moves into a kind of folk fugato at one stage.
Frank Bridge’s 1910 Phantasy is an immediately attractive and
succinct work that fits the W.W. Cobbett Competition single-movement
theme perfectly. It’s performed adroitly here, and rather better
than the London Bridge Ensemble on Dutton CDLX7254, who are
a bit too sentimental. Yet, the Frith Piano Quartet has to cede
to the Maggini Quartet members and Martin Roscoe on Naxos 8.557283
for true perception in Bridge’s lexicon. The Friths are somewhat
less arresting and also a touch less affectionate than their
Maggini rivals, though you would be very happy with the performance
The final work, by Lekeu, offers a non-British torso of a Piano
Quartet. It’s robustly and intensely played, no doubt, though
there are certainly other ways to approach its post-Franck effusion.
Try the Spiller Trio with Oscar Lysy on Arts 47567-2, who are
much more leisurely in the first of the two surviving movements,
for example. Still, for explosive commitment this Frith performance
will do especially nicely.
The recording has been well judged, so too the booklet notes.
This admittedly somewhat unwieldy programme nevertheless deserves
to do well.
see also review