Holt • Dennehy • Gilbert

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COMPOSERS: Holt; Dennehy; Gilbert
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Bracing Change
WORKS: Holt: 3rd Quartet; Dennehy: The weather of it; Gilbert: Haven of Mysteries
PERFORMER: JACK Quartet; Doric Quartet; Carducci Quartet; Guy Johnston (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D216

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While the Wigmore Hall may more often resound with Haydn quartets than contemporary compositions, this excellent disc celebrates the venue’s firm commitment to new music. Featuring three recent commissions for strings, Bracing Change rekindles the string quartet (and quintet) as a site of risk and innovation.

Simon Holt’s 3rd Quartet (2013) presents six movements that fizz with colour and imagination, performed with tremendous panache by the JACK Quartet. One highlight is ‘Wing Pu’s nail house’, a movement driven by the story of a Chinese citizen who refused to allow her home be torn down to make way for a shopping mall. Holt’s vivid score here oscillates between furious counterpoint and passages of defiant poise, conjured in gentle suspended chords. 

Donnacha Dennehy’s post-minimalist The weather of it is at once dynamic and tender, the sweetness of his harmony piqued with microtonal scoring, rendered with shimmering precision by the Doric Quartet. Anthony Gilbert’s Haven of Mysteries (2014) is the composer’s first quintet. Sparked by his longstanding fascination with the architecture of medieval French Cathedrals, the work is graceful, tightly-structured and monumental in scope, well-matched by the luscious, vital timbre conjured by the Carducci Quartet and cellist Guy Johnston.

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Kate Wakeling