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RAINIER, Priaulx. String Quartet*; Quanta for oboe and string trio+; String Trio+; Ploërmel for wind and percussionº.    *Edinburgh Quartet, +Redcliffe Ensemble, ºRoyal Northern College of Music Wind Ensemble, Timothy Reynish. Redcliffe Recordings. RR007 [60' 12"].
This disc is currently on special offer at $18 post free world wide

This is a welcome disc.

Priaulx Rainier (1903 - 1986) was born in South Africa and studied in London from 1920 onwards and made England her home. I remember the furore when Quanta was first broadcast and how the newspaper critics savaged the piece. Reviewers are not necessarily musicians and would not therefore appreciate minor seconds, augmented seconds, major sevenths and minor ninths even if they knew what they are. The problem was that the music is abstract and like the superlative String Quartet it is very serious. Janet Caxton and her London Oboe Quartet premiered it and I was impressed by it then, as I am now. Robin Canter is the excellent oboist here. There is something special, original and rare about this piece which I cannot define. But that can also be said about the String Quartet which I have admired for many years and, in fact, wrote an article about in the mid 1970s. It seemed to me then that Bartók's String Quartet No 5, a veritable masterpiece, lies behind Rainier's Quartet written some five years later. I love its weighty seriousness in the first movement, the joyful and gracious vivace, the thoughtful andante tranquillo and the concluding presto spiritoso. Again, my shortcomings have to be displayed. This music has a rare quality but I cannot tell you what it is.

The String Trio of 1966 is in one movement and explores the interval of a major ninth. It is another extraordinary piece in which Rainier's highly developed style is heard at its best. It has an amazing variety that adds to its interest including bright dissonances, regular changing metres and rhythms, a fascinating harmony that usually avoids the predictability of tonal centres and traditionalism.

Many people will find Rainier's music difficult to listen to whereas I, for one, find it both challenging and highly absorbing. And I applaud its originality and courage.

Ploërmel was first performed at a BBC Promenade Concert in 1973. It is in eleven short sections alternating quick and slow music. The title refers to a place in North West France and the piece was inspired by local church bells and early morning light reflected by the stained glass windows. This is, of course, a different sound world altogether from the other pieces on the disc. The work is not a showpiece nor is it brassily vulgar but an exploration of each instrument's potential and the blending of their respective sounds. It is a complex and uneasy work.

The recording quality is most acceptable as are the performances. Sadly, the music will not be to everybody's taste. Rainier was a composer who wrote what she wanted to express. She did not kowtow to current fashion or public opinion. She was an honest composer. Incidentally, Menuhin played her Violin Concerto and Jacqueline du Pré premiered the Cello Concerto at BBC Prom in 1964 but loathed every second of it, not only because of its idiom, but because it was technically beyond her.

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David Wright




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