Rawsthorne: String Quartets (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Rawsthorne
LABELS: ASV
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.

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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 The earliest included here, the second of two unpublished quartets written during the mid-Thirties, is recorded for the first time, and its resurrection proves well worthwhile.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.

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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