Takemitsu/Barber/Britten

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Takemitsu/Barber/Britten
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: A Way A Lone; String Quartet, Op. 11; String Quartet No. 2
PERFORMER: Tokyo Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61387 2 DDD
Takemitsu, Barber and Britten are slightly unexpected bedfellows, though the Tokyo’s plush, self-consciously emotional performances bring them far closer together stylistically than one might have expected. A Way A Lone was written for the tenth anniversary of the Tokyo Quartet in 1981 and finds Takemitsu in his most undisguised Viennese mode, using a rich, harmonic palette indebted to Alban Berg to create textures of great depth and intensity. As always with Takemitsu, the way of building the piece, of relating one idea to the next, is intuitively his own. The listener trusts the composer’s instincts, follows the musical journey from one discovery to the next.

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While the Tokyo’s account of Britten’s Second Quartet seems just too high in calories – there should be much more athleticism, less self-regard – their Brahmsian plushness is well suited to the Barber, where they turn the famous second movement (best known in its orchestral inflation as the Adagio for Strings) into a sumptuous hymn. The outer movements need more attack and a leaner sound, though; Barber’s Romanticism is only one part of his make-up, and there is a neo-Classical edge in the music to be taken into account as well. Andrew Clements