Tippett: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Tippett
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 5
PERFORMER: Kreutzer Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9512
Tippett’s Quartet No. 3 (1945-6) is uncompromising in the technical and expressive demands it places on its performers. From the first bars, the sheer quality of sound achieved by the Kreutzer Quartet matches those demands triumphantly, while the Chandos recording allows them a natural bloom and full dynamic range. The latter is particularly important in the Largo fourth movement, where the music often hovers on the edge of silence; and the Kreutzer’s secure intonation is nothing short of extraordinary. The fast music, with its complex overlapping textures, has a splendid sweep, generating that uniquely radiant Tippett string sound.

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If, thanks to its excellent recorded sound, the new disc becomes the top recommendation in the Third Quartet, in the Fifth (1991) the rival Lindsay Quartet offers a modern recording which is its equal. Cast in two movements and closely linked to material from his fifth opera, New Year, the music seeks what his biographer Meirion Bowen calls Tippett’s ‘vision of radiance and beauty’. Again the Kreutzer achieves remarkable standards of playing, but in the finale the Lindsay is slightly stronger and more visionary. Terry Barfoot