MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Dame Ethel SMYTH (1858-1944)
String Quartet in E minor (1902, rev. 1912) [41:40]
String Quintet in E major, Op 1 (1884) [26:28]
Mannheimer Streichquartett
Joachim Griesheimer (cello: quintet)
rec. March 1990 (Quartet) and November 1994 (Quintet), Funkstudio, Villa Berg, Stuttgart, Germany
CPO 999 352-2 [68:29]

In her youth, Ethel Smyth was alternately criticized for composing music that was too masculine or too feminine, depending on who was listening. Later she was derided as too conservative. The past few decades saw her music evaluated on its own merits, on a number of recordings. The present disc – one of the earlier efforts in Smyth’s re-evaluation – appeared in 1996, and in 2002 was included in a six-CD set Great Women Composers (review). This is its return.

Ethel Smyth was 17 when she moved to Germany to study and live for the next dozen years. Her Opus 1, the present String Quintet, already shows many personal traits in addition to its solid Germanic cast. It is in five movements, and it demonstrates a sense of the unique capabilities of the string quintet form. The opening very enjoyable Allegro partakes more of Dvořák than Brahms or Herzogenberg (who was Smyth’s teacher and mentor). The second movement has more of a sense of urgency but with a folkish tinge. The scherzo is a bit of a let-down but the succeeding Allegro is quite impressive, serious but not gloomy, and very well-constructed. Indeed, Smyth’s structural abilities are perhaps not noticed frequently enough. The final movement has a fine main theme and again is slightly folkish, though also a bit forward-looking in harmony and rhythm.

The Quartet in E minor is a work of Smyth’s full maturity. It too features her unique ability to combine German solidity with a more personal geniality and whimsy, but with greater emotional and technical profundity. This is immediately evident in the opening Allegretto lirico. The development is of very high quality; the coda also displays Smyth’s characteristic rhythmic sense. The scherzo reminded me of Hubert Parry, and the slow movement that follows is very eloquent. It begins autumnally and somewhat severely but becomes progressively more impassioned. This movement is more forward-looking than the previous two, as is the finale, which – as the notes point out - is a little Bartokian.

The performances on this disc are very proficient technically, and show the musicians’ appreciation for the unique personality in Smyth’s works. Even in the 1990s these were not the first recordings of the two pieces: four discs of Smyth’s chamber and vocal music appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s on Troubadour (review ~ review). There has also been a more recent recording of the quartet (review). But as an introduction to Smyth’s music this disc is perfect.

William Kreindler

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount