Rubbra: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 4

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rubbra
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 4
PERFORMER: Sterling String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51260 2 DDD
First a cycle of the symphonies, now the complete string quartets. The resurgence of interest in Edmund Rubbra continues apace, and three of his four quartets now make their first appearance on CD. For him this was a natural medium, and his desire was to achieve ‘the purest possible texture’. The music spans forty-four years, and the last quartet (1977) was dedicated to a composer of similar instincts, Robert Simpson.

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The mastery of Rubbra’s technique and his command of form allow his sincere emotional expression full rein. These strengths are felt to best advantage in the magnificent Cavatina of the Second Quartet and the nostalgic outlook of the Fourth. But in truth all these works are typical of Rubbra’s cogent style, even if his melodic invention is sometimes a little short on personality.

The Sterling Quartet generate great commitment, delivering the sonorous textures which are essential to Rubbra’s idiom. The recording places them in a forward perspective, and one result is that the dynamic range lacks refinement; but while subtleties are missed, the music’s eloquence is never compromised.

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The combined duration of these quartets is just too long for a single CD, and Conifer have acknowledged this in their price. Terry Barfoot