Frankel: String Quartets (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Frankel
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: String Quartets (complete)
PERFORMER: Nomos Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 999 420-2
Those who’ve seen the British cinema classic The Man in the White Suit might not recall the name Benjamin Frankel flagged up among the credits. But Frankel (1906-73) composed well over a hundred film scores and William Mann dubbed him ‘our most eloquent symphonist’ after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony. His Violin Concerto was greeted as ‘a work we can ill afford to forget’, but for all that, he remains an obscure and neglected figure.

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The German label CPO has recently taken up the Frankel cause, issuing two of his eight symphonies and a clutch of chamber and instrumental works on two CDs. They’re now followed by capable accounts of Frankel’s complete quartets from the Nomos Quartet. Benjamin Frankel’s best explorations of the genre take Bartók as their model; Quartets Nos 2 and 5 have five movements orbiting a central slow movement. The Fifth Quartet (1965) is probably the only one you would want to hear repeatedly. The First is pretty forgettable, though there’s some attractive writing in the Fourth, despite its brevity. These are intelligent and assured readings, which make out a good case for music which still needs a helping hand at times. Michael Jameson