One of the most grown-up review sites around

51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Matthew QUAYLE (b. 1976)
String Quartet no.1 (2005) [23:11]
String Quartet no.2 'Sweet Insanity' (2006) [9:12]
String Quartet no.3 (2016) [21:59]
Avalon String Quartet
rec. 2016, Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, Northern Illinois University, USA
NAXOS 8.559851 [54:35]

This is my first encounter with the music of the American composer Matthew Quayle. Aside from composing and working to commissions, he's a pianist, chamber musician and currently holds a teaching post at New York University, Abu Dhabi. His compositional output is wide-ranging: in addition to his string quartets, he's written orchestral works, cabaret song cycles and solo piano music. The three string quartets here span eleven years: the first two date from 2005 and 2006, with No. 3 following after a gap of ten years.

Although in four movements, the String Quartet No. 1 started life as a single movement, written at a time of family bereavement. As well as conveying a deep sense of loss, it also takes a backward glance at the composer’s childhood days in Gridley Paige Road, a rural setting in the centre of New York State. Nostalgia and wistfulness pervade the music. Three more movements were added two years later. There’s a sprightly Scherzo, rhythmically buoyant and capricious. A slow movement follows, sombre and doleful. Quayle describes the finale as ‘enigmatic’, and that’s exactly how I found it, yet there’s a sense of optimism and hope at the end. It concludes with some glowing, luminous harmonics. In 2007, the composer made a string orchestra arrangement of the first movement, entitling it ‘Gridley Paige Road’.

A year later Quayle wrote his Second String Quartet, which has the intriguing title ‘Sweet Insanity’. A single movement, it paints a graphic portrait of the composer’s life at the time – stressful, insecure and filled with uncertainty. Its disparate styles – lyricism on one hand, spiky, atonal dissonance on the other - merge into a nine-minute canvas of turmoil and hurly-burly. It’s much more harmonically advanced than its predecessor.

Fast forward ten years and we have the String Quartet No. 3, comprising of thirteen linked short vignettes of everyday life – “a dizzying diet of news clips, You Tube videos, randomized song playlists and soundbites”. So, the work sounds erratic. The opening chords of Bach’s Chaconne make an appearance early on. The tranquil opening of the first movement quickly splinters into a series of life’s snapshots, no doubt a caustic comment on the irritating soundbites that inflict themselves on us today, pandering to an audience with a perceived brief attention span.

The Avalon String Quartet, who’ve had close ties with these string quartets since their genesis, give committed performances of these imaginatively constructed quartets; they obviously believe in the music and the composer couldn’t have wished for better advocates. Furthermore, they've been well-recorded. Matthew Quayle’s own liner notes offer helpful background and context, aiding the listener to appreciate fully these richly embroidered scores.

Stephen Greenbank

We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger