Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor (1911) [12.08]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Piano Quartet in A minor, op.2 (1916-1917) [26:12]
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Rhapsody for Piano Quartet (1938) [8.44]
Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
Quartet Op. 16 (1899) [19:29]
Primrose Piano Quartet (Susanne Stanzeleit (violin), Susie Meszdros (viola), Bernard Gregor-Smith (cello), John Thwaites (piano))
rec. September 2005, St Edward the Confessor’s, Mottingham, London SE9.
MERIDIAN CDE84547 [66:33]
The Primrose Piano Quartet are to be most highly commended for their outstanding work in bringing the neglected works of less familiar English composers to light. That’s particularly the case with this their latest release from Meridian.
The disc opens with Frank Bridge's Phantasy Quartet, written for W. W. Cobbett's famous competition. Competitors were invited to submit a work in one movement, recalling the "Phantasies" of sixteenth and seventeenth century English chamber music; Bridge's Piano Trio had won the Prize three years earlier. Composed in 1910, this Phantasy Quartet presents passionately lyrical sections interposed with playful, light scherzos and a gorgeously tranquil ending that the Primrose Piano Quartet captures perfectly.
Herbert Howells' Piano Quartet was dedicated "To the hill at Chosen and Ivor Gurney who knows it". Chosen Hill in Gloucestershire (Howells' home county) was a favourite place of Howells and his friend Gurney, another English composer who produced works of tremendous poignancy and beauty. The work is superbly performed, with its opening movement, Allegro moderato, full of restless, searching energy and a wonderfully rich, romantic slow movement.
William Alwyn’s Rhapsody for Piano Quartet, with its wonderful chromaticism, is another single-movement work of typically Alwynian rhythmic drive. Although written much later than the other works on this disc, in 1938, it nonetheless inhabits a similar sound-world. It shares with them an intensity and luminosity peculiar to English music of the early twentieth century period.
The disc concludes with Cyril Scott’s Quartet. Scott was one of "Frankfurt Group" of British (and one Australian) composers who studied composition together in Frankfurt. The others were Grainger, Quilter - that craftsman of the most exquisite songs - Norman O'Neill and Balfour Gardiner, the great musical patron. Scott composed his Piano Quartet when he was 21. Although he is now rather forgotten, by then his first symphony (which he later withdrew) had received its premiere in Germany. His second symphony was soon to be conducted by Sir Henry Wood. The quartet received its premiere in London in 1903 with Scott himself playing the piano part. Scott persuaded Kreisler to be the violinist, thus bringing the composer to the public's notice in a way in which, as Scott himself said, "short of murder, nothing else could have done". This work is confidently written and deeply-felt. It contains storms of impassioned outbursts in its romantic Allegro maestoso con spirito and Andante molto espressivo movements.
This is a disc that merits high praise. It is well presented, with scholarly notes from Francis Pott. The accomplished Primrose Piano Quartet - which includes highly- acclaimed chamber musicians - plays together with an ease and kinship that belies the difficulty of the music. The musicians' polished rapport and musical understanding and communication is excellent. They capture the questing nature of the pieces and their glorious shades of light and dark brilliantly. Radiant performances of wonderful music.
Previous review: John France