Britten: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3

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LABELS: Challenge
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3
PERFORMER: Brodsky Quartet
In the quarter-century since Britten’s death it has become apparent that his three numbered string quartets are only half the story, as work after work has been dredged up from the years of his apprenticeship. Yet, interesting as they have proved, they have done little to dilute the obvious mastery of the mature works. This disc is a companion to the Brodsky’s recording of No. 1, unusually paired with Tchaikovsky and released last year. With two of the best couplings of Nos 2 and 3, namely those by the Amadeus (Decca) and Britten Quartets (Collins), hard to track down, the Brodsky has the field virtually to itself. Its performances, recorded in Snape Maltings, combine tonal richness with a strong sense of line and structure. Lead violinist Andrew Haveron’s stratospheric playing in the ‘Solo’ movement of the valedictory Third Quartet sounds much safer than the Amadeus’s Norbert Brainin, but then the work was barely two years old when that first recording was made. Indeed, the greater sense of security throughout, matched by an intensity of feeling from all four players, marks this account out as a new benchmark in the interpretative history of the work.


In the Second Quartet, written for Purcell’s 250th anniversary in 1945, the Amadeus, recorded in the early Sixties, has the edge in the personality of its playing, though the Brodsky’s performance is accomplished in its own right – there’s just a slight sag in concentration through the long final Chaconne. Matthew Rye