BBC Music Magazine

Albion Refracted


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



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