Boughton: String Quartet in F (From the Welsh Hills); String Quartet in A (On Greek Folk Songs); Oboe Quartet No. 1; Three Songs without Words

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COMPOSERS: Boughton
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: String Quartet in F (From the Welsh Hills); String Quartet in A (On Greek Folk Songs); Oboe Quartet No. 1; Three Songs without Words
PERFORMER: Sarah Francis (oboe)Rasumovsky Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66936
Rutland Boughton (1878-1960) is best known for his opera The Immortal Hour, but he worked in all the main genres. Both these quartets were written in 1923. An advertisement placed before an Aeolian Hall performance – ‘these concerts are not for high-brows but for the general musical public who still believe in the common chord and an occasional tune’ – indicates his musical style: looking back rather than forward.

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The Rasumovsky’s performances are as fluent as the music itself, perhaps to the extent of seeming somewhat bland. It’s all beautifully balanced and the recording is truthful, but somehow the music seems wanting in personality. The players might have generated a little more drive and drama.

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The oboe pieces, with their natural contrast between wind and strings, are more distinctive, and the pastoral evocations of the Songs without Words are particularly effective. Boughton composed these pieces for his daughter Joy, a leading oboist and a formative influence on Sarah Francis. Francis is excellent in the delightful Oboe Quartet, which Boughton aptly described as ‘small, sweet and spring-like’. Terry Barfoot