Stravinsky, Alvarez, Sculthorpe, D Matthews, Szymanski, Massenet, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Alvarez,D Matthews,etc,Massenet,Sculthorpe,Stravinsky,Szymanski
LABELS: Silva Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Lament
WORKS: Three Pieces for String Quartet; Metro Chabacano; Lament
PERFORMER: Wilhelminia Fernandez (soprano), Elvis Costello (vocals), Susan Monks (cello), Mary Scully (double bass); Brodsky Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SILKD 6001 DDD
The Brodskys are among the first British string quartets to have followed the Kronos route to fame and fortune, which is odd for those who remember them as rather staid. And while there’s no denying the skills, individual and corporate, of these seasoned players, I’m not as clear, amid the hype, about the Brodskys’ intentions as I am about those of their rivals: both the Balanescu and Smith Quartets are using their commercial advantages to pursue some really unusual and worthwhile projects.

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Perhaps the best thing about this disc – which as a whole is rather a ragbag – is a likely exposure for contemporary pieces impossible without the ‘garage band of classical music’ image. Pawel Szymanski’s Five Pieces is an uncommonly compelling attempt to put classical (here mostly Bach-like) gestures through modernist paces; Peter Sculthorpe’s moving Lament (actually a sextet) gives the album its title. But Irish folksong from Costello, Massenet from Fernandez, second-hand Nyman with occasional wrong notes and some sub-Kronos variations on ‘Waltzing Matilda’ (both these from the quartet’s leader) all add more ‘image’ than substance. And beware: even my fourth review copy popped and slid on track 1 – the first ‘slipped disc’ on my present equipment. Keith Potter