WORKS: String Quartet in E minor; Three Idylls; String Quartet in A minor
PERFORMER: Coull Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66718 DDD
This well-filled disc features some of the finest British chamber music of our century. Elgar’s Quartet was the centrepiece of the trilogy of chamber works he composed around the end of the First World War, shortly before the death of his wife Alice. It ranks among the composer’s most deeply felt creations – the slow movement was played at Alice’s funeral – and the Coull Quartet’s eloquent and sensitive performance does full justice to the music’s elusive emotional world.
Like Elgar, Frank Bridge was a string player, and his Three Idylls reveal his understanding of the string quartet’s expressive potential. It was the second of these pieces that inspired Britten’s celebrated Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; and in this fine performance, ideally balanced in texture, one can understand his enthusiasm. The eloquent first Idyll, longer than its companions, generates a real emotional intensity.
Completed in 1946, Walton’s String Quartet is among his finest works, containing the full range of his style. The biting rhythms of the scherzo therefore contrast strongly with the poignantly lyrical slow movement, and the players convey this searching intensity to the full. This disc is urgently recommended to all lovers of British music. Terry Barfoot