Al­bion Re­fracted

BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber Reviews -

Bridge: Three Idylls for String Quar­tet; Brit­ten: Three Diver­ti­menti for String Quar­tet; Phibbs: String Quar­tet No. 1; Tur­nage: Twisted Blues with Twisted Bal­lad Pi­atti Quar­tet

Champs Hill Records CHRCD 145 71:22 mins

From sooth­ing pas­torale to eu­phoric rock an­them, this ex­cel­lent al­bum traces an in­trigu­ing path through modern Bri­tish works for quar­tet. The disc opens with Bridge’s Three Idylls (1906), best known for its se­cond move­ment (as heard in Brit­ten’s Vari­a­tions on a Theme of Frank Bridge), and all per­formed with ten­der­ness and nu­ance. Brit­ten’s de­light­ful Three Diver­ti­menti (1933) fol­lows, con­ceived as a se­ries of ‘por­traits’ of Brit­ten’s friends, and the Pi­atti Quar­tet aptly cap­ture this sense of af­fec­tion­ate ca­ma­raderie in a warm and colour­ful per­for­mance. A touch more flex­i­bil­ity and hu­mour in the ‘Waltz’ would have been wel­come, but the quar­tet bring won­der­ful fire to the clos­ing ‘Bur­lesque’, and it is re­ward­ing to hear a high-qual­ity record­ing of this of­ten-over­looked work.

Com­mis­sioned by the Pi­at­tis, Joseph Phibbs’s Quar­tet No. 1 (2014) takes in­spi­ra­tion from Haydn’s early five-move­ment quar­tets. Per­formed with beau­ti­ful poise, Phibbs’s tightly-struc­tured work is deeply af­fect­ing in its clar­ity and re­straint.

Re­straint is not a word that springs to mind about the open­ing of Mark-an­thony Tur­nage’s mag­nif­i­cent Twisted Blues with Twisted Bal­lad (2008). The com­poser had long wres­tled with writ­ing a string quar­tet, but even­tu­ally found him­self freed up to com­pose one via the wild bril­liance of Led Zep­pelin. Tak­ing two clas­sic hits – ‘Dazed and Con­fused’ and ‘Stair­way to Heaven’ – as his start­ing point, Tur­nage pro­duced this tremen­dously dy­namic, mov­ing and colour­ful score. Each move­ment is a world of its own – from elec­tric gui­tar tu­mult to heart­felt el­egy – and the Pi­atti Quar­tet are on fe­ro­ciously fine form in this thrilling con­clu­sion to the disc.

Kate Wake­l­ing

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

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