Into the Ravine
This is a distillation of the essence of the Presteigne Festival, which every August presents a wealth of British contemporary music in and around a small town in the Welsh borders. Michael Berkeley, who lives nearby and is the Festival’s President, wrote Into the Ravine for the 2012 Festival: named after a painting by John Craxton (brother of the oboist Janet), it is a study in the varied colours available from oboe and string quartet, reaching an intense unified climax. John McCabe, a Presteigne regular, wrote his Quartet No. 7 for the same Festival: in five movements with two scherzos, it holds in balance the lyrical and the propulsive, the declamatory and the intimate, before dissolving into ‘a gentle summer sky at dusk’. Adrian Williams, a founder of the Festival and another local resident, composed his Fourth Quartet for Presteigne in 2009; its three movements are fuelled by personal urgency, offset by reflective moments reminiscent of Finzi.
The talented Carducci players are responsive to all the shifting moods of this programme, and Nicholas Daniel spins a finely controlled line in the Berkeley. The recording, made in an Oxford church, adds warm but occasionally overbearing resonance.