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Matthew TAYLOR (b.1964)
String Quartet No.5, Op.35 (2007-08) [14:41]
String Quartet No.6, Op.36 (2006-08) [18:38]
String Quartet No.7, Op.37 (2008-09) [20:45]
Dante String Quartet (Quartet 5)
Allegri String Quartet (Quartet 6)
Salieri String Quartet (Quartet 7)
rec. May 2012, All Saints’ Church, Durham Road, East Finchley, London
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0144  [54:22]

Viola Concerto, Humoreskes, Op. 41 (2010) [22:20]
Symphony No. 2, Op.10 (1991, rec. 1997 and 2008) [36:40]
Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Garry Walker
rec. BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale, London, 24-25 January 2013 (Concerto) and 23 January 2009 (Symphony). DDD
premiere recordings
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0175 [59:00]

Toccata Classics is one of the most enterprising independent labels. At the same time as I caught up with these two recordings of music by a contemporary who deserves to be better known, I also listened to and enjoyed the very different first volume of a planned series of recordings of the music of one of Vivaldi’s contemporaries, Giacomo Facco (Toccata TOCC0202).
 
I’ve had to make several admissions this month about not keeping up with what my colleagues have been writing about; in this case it’s several months since Jonathan Woolf recommended the recording of the string quartets - review - and I’ve failed to heed reviews of other Toccata recordings of the music of this talented composer, who manages to speak the same language as the mainstream of the past but with his own individual and unmistakeably modern accent. Better late than never, though, with the new recording on TOCC0175 prompting me to look back at the quartets.
 
I don’t want to give the impression that the music is ‘easy’ or ‘comfortable’; it asks questions of the listener which are in some respects as demanding as those asked by the late Beethoven Quartets, but it does so in a way that isn’t simply avant-garde or difficult for the sake of being so. Regular readers will know that I’m no lover of much contemporary music or, indeed, of the late twentieth century, but I can relate to Taylor’s music.
 
The performances, by three different quartets, are very good and the recording is equally good. I listened to this as a download from toccataclassics.com in CD-quality lossless flac as well as mp3; both formats are good and come with the full booklet in pdf form if you choose not to buy the physical disc - but see below for MusicWeb International’s special price for all Toccata Classics CDs.
 
The recording of the concerto and symphony is, if anything, even more attractive - it was, in fact, seeing this very favourably reviewed in a magazine that piqued my interest in Matthew Taylor. If anything the music asks even more demanding questions of the listener than the quartets and I wouldn’t choose to listen to it in all moods, but it’s often as ethereal as it is demanding and I do feel that you give it a try. The booklet mentions a number of influences on Taylor’s music, of which I thought the reference to his friendship with Robert Simpson cast the most light on what I was hearing. Simpson is a composer whose work I think far too undervalued; it’s a great shame that I keep seeing Hyperion’s recordings of his music, some of them conducted by none other than Matthew Taylor, appearing in their ‘please buy me’ category because no-one has been buying them. Searchers for a bargain should keep an eye open on the Hyperion-records.co.uk website where you’ll often find them on offer at half price on CD or download.
 
If you’re unsure if Matthew Taylor’s music is for you and have access to the very valuable Naxos Music Library you can listen to both these recordings there - and also to the other Toccata album of Taylor’s music listed below. Toccata also offer substantial samples on their website.
 
The performances do the music proud and the booklet contains some very helpful notes. Once again I listened to this as a download from toccataclassics.com, both mp3 and CD-quality lossless and the recording is very good.
 
Now I must explore some earlier releases of Taylor’s music from Toccata and others:
•  Toccata TOCC0015: Piano Trio, Op.17; String Quartet No.3; Conflict and Consolation - review - available from MusicWeb (see below); download from toccataclassics.com, or stream from Naxos Music Library
•  Dunelm Records DRD0196: Music for cello and piano (with Schumann and Sibelius) - review. No longer available but possibly due for future reissue by Divine Art.
•  Dutton Epoch CDLX7178: Symphony No.1 ‘Sinfonia brevis’, Op.2; Horn Concerto, Op.23; Symphony No.3, Op.33 - details from Dutton website.
 
If you’re not into downloading MusicWeb International will sell you both of these and other Toccata Classics recordings, including the Facco concertos for £10.50 post free - order form here.
 
I plan to include a shorter version of this review as my Discovery of the Month in a forthcoming edition of my Download News but I thought these recordings merited also being reviewed on the main pages. Do give one or both a try.
 
Brian Wilson 

See also review of the quartets disc by Jonathan Woolf

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