David Matthews: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 6; The Flaying of Marsyas; A Little Threnody

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COMPOSERS: David Matthews
LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 6; The Flaying of Marsyas; A Little Threnody
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe, cor anglais)Brindisi String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MET CD 1005 DDD
David Matthews has long been associated with Britten and Aldeburgh, so it makes sense for the new record label Metronome to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Brindisi Quartet – formed in Aldeburgh – with an all-Matthews disc.

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Matthews has written ten string quartets (although the first four remain unacknowledged and unnumbered). This disc includes his substantial Third (1977) and Sixth (1991), which was written for the Brindisi. The Third, in particular, displays the Brindisi’s extraordinarily impressive match of tone; about three-quarters of the way through this single-movement work a unison tremolo on all four instruments is just riveting. But it’s The Flaying of Marsyas, a work billed as a concerto for oboe and violin with string trio, that makes this disc worth buying. Matthews has written a small masterpiece – a depiction of Titian’s great painting where Marsyas (oboe) loses a musical contest with Apollo (violin) and is flayed alive. Matthews wonderfully captures the cheeky challenge, providing a ‘competitive’ duet for the two soloists – the violin easily outstrips the oboe with unmatchable double-stops and harmonics. Nicholas Daniel is the brilliant but hapless oboist. A Little Threnody for cor anglais might have beaten Apollo. Annette Morreau