David Matthews String Quartets

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: David Matthews
LABELS: Toccata
ALBUM TITLE: David Matthews
WORKS: D Matthews: String Quartet No. 11; Diabelli Variation; Beethoven (arr. Matthews): 11 Bagatelles; Piano Sonata No. 11, Op. 22 – Adagio; Piano Sonata No. 28, Op. 101
PERFORMER: Kreutzer Quartet


Immersing yourself in a great creative mind is a good test of inner purpose. If you don’t lose yourself completely, you may discover truths about yourself inaccessible to lonely introspection. David Matthews has revered Beethoven since childhood, and here we find him trying on a variety of Beethovenian masks. Beethoven himself arranged his Piano Sonata Op. 14 No. 1 for string quartet. Matthews does the same with the Bagatelles, Op. 119, the slow movement of the Sonata Op. 22 and all four movements of Op. 101. In the latter not only do the piano textures adapt remarkably well to multiple solo string texture, but there’s also one passage – a long string of hushed syncopations in the first movement – where the music actually gains, solo strings bringing out the breath-catching offbeat accents in ways even the best pianist can’t.

All this effectively prepares the way for Matthews’s own Quartet No. 11, a set of variations and fugue on one of the Beethoven bagatelles, indebted in overall conception to the latter’s great Op. 130 Quartet. Yet if you didn’t know this, it’s unlikely you’d sense any kind of spiritual indebtedness. Quartet No. 11 is work with its own very clear sense of purpose, and some moments of strange inward magic – like the whispered Quieto movement just before the heartfelt Cavatina – unlike anything else in modern quartet writing. The Kreutzer Quartet demonstrate their long familiarity with Matthews’s style and thinking.


Stephen Johnson