Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
String Quartet, Op. 11 [21:38]
Serenade for String Quartet, Op. 1 [8:28]
Dover Beach, Op. 3 [8:08]
Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
String Quartet in one movement, Op. 23 [15:09]
Concerto da camera, Op. 7 [15:18]
Randall THOMPSON (1899-1984)
Alleluia (1940) arr. Ying Quartet [5:21]
Ying Quartet, Adam Neiman (piano - Concert da Camera); Randall Scarlata
(baritone - Dover Beach)
rec. 15-17 May 2012, Sono Luminus, Boyce, Virginia, USA
Full text included for Dover Beach.
DORIAN SONO LUMINUS DSL-92166 [74:02]
The disc comprises six American works played by
the four siblings of the American Ying Quartet. Inspection reveals that
the jewel case contains a separate Blu-ray disc which is audio only
with no video component. Philip Ying explains: “The record label
likes to use this technology to provide an additional version at greatly
increased sampling rate than a regular CD, and also to allow for surround
sound. So the idea is greater fidelity than a CD can capture.”
Barber won the Prix de Rome in 1935 and it wasn’t long after that
when he commenced his String Quartet. There can be few people
who haven’t heard the version of its Molto adagio that
Barber arranged in 1938 for string orchestra known as the much loved
Adagio for Strings. Barber became dissatisfied with the third
and final movement and eventually replaced it with a Molto allegro
(Come prima) of less than half the length of the original. Here
the Ying Quartet has also included the original third movement. The
booklet notes claim this is a world première recording. It’s
all very finely done with the Ying in spirited and characterful form.
However, it doesn’t quite match the compelling and highly expressive
1990 New York City account from the Emerson String Quartet on Deutsche
Grammophon 435 864-2 (c/w Ives String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2).
Barber was only eighteen when he wrote his Serenade for String Quartet,
Op. 1 whilst still a student of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Lasting just over eight minutes the concise three movement Serenade
is an attractive work if rather lacking in anything really memorable.
The assured Ying nevertheless play it with considerable affection.
The brooding and atmospheric Dover Beach, Op. 3 (1931) for baritone
and strings sets a short text by British poet Matthew Arnold. It’s
another score from Barber’s student days. A baritone himself,
Barber performed the score many times and actually recorded it himself.
This intensely lyrical work is here given an excellent rendition by
American baritone Randall Scarlata. He convincingly conveys the shifting
shafts of light and the ebb and flow of the maritime imagery.
Next come two rarely heard works from the pen of Howard Hanson. The
String Quartet, Op. 23 (1923) a single movement score lasting
here just over fifteen minutes. I enjoyed the incisive tone of the Ying
who skilfully reveal the range of Hanson’s contrasting moods.
The Concerto da camera, Op. 7 is also cast in a single movement
taking just over fifteen minutes here to play. An early work written
in 1916/17 this version for string quartet and piano was completed in
1922. In the capable hands of the Ying and pianist Adam Neiman the work’s
seriousness and intensity is splendidly underlined.
Randall Thompson’s Alleluia for unaccompanied SATB chorus
was rapidly composed in 1940. Most likely inspired by the terrors of
the war raging in Europe, Thompson wrote a rather restrained and reflective
work not the joyous score that the commissioners were expecting. This
splendid arrangement prepared by the Ying quartet radiates integrity.
I did wonder if this is a first recording of this arrangement.
There are some fascinating American scores here ranging from Barber’s
world famous Adagio in the original version for string quartet
to several rarely heard chamber scores that are well worth exploring.
The sound is most acceptable being reasonably clear and balanced although
I would have preferred a little more depth.
I thoroughly enjoyed this impressive disc greatly assisted by the assurance
of the members of the Ying Quartet who are clearly committed advocates
for this music of their home country.