WORKS: String Quartets (complete)
PERFORMER: Flesch Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 983
Alan Rawsthorne occupies the fringes of the repertoire; performances and recordings are the exception rather than the rule. Yet he remains a composer of consummate skill, whose music is beautifully crafted and imaginatively structured, with a concentrated wit.
All these attributes are present in the string quartets. The earliest included here, the second of two unpublished quartets written during the mid-Thirties, is recorded for the first time, and its resurrection proves well worthwhile. But Rawsthorne was nothing if not fastidious, and only with the more unified approach of the Quartet No. 1 (1939) did he believe he had achieved his required standard. Certainly this single-movement theme and variations generates a concentrated sweep, and it is to the young Flesch Quartet’s credit that the music’s essential nature is communicated.
There is skilful playing in the more diverse Quartet No. 2, although the slower rhapsodic music might have gained from a more passionate expressiveness. Rawsthorne’s style intensified in his later works, and the four sections of the Quartet No. 3 (1965) are contained in another single structure, using a pervasive motto figure. The Flesch Quartet successfully project the subtle unity. Terry Barfoot