Walton • Bridge • Lekeu

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: William Walton; Frank Bridge; Guillaume Lekeu
LABELS: Nimbus Alliance
ALBUM TITLE: Walton • Bridge • Lekeu
WORKS: Walton: Piano Quartet in D minor; Bridge: Phantasy in F sharp minor; Lekeu: Piano Quartet
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith (piano), Robert Heard (violin), Louis Williams (viola), Richard Jenkinson (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: NI6183

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A starry level of professional chamber-music playing is par for the course in these islands. Even so, the quality on display here – above all, the near-perfect interplay between collective statement and individual contribution – puts these performances in the top flight. The booklet note doesn’t tell us if this is the original version of the teenage Walton’s Piano Quartet or its much later revision. It appears to be the former, and these players convincingly bring out the music’s allusions to obvious models (Fauré and Vaughan Williams): Benjamin Frith’s deft way with the Scherzo’s piano part, for instance, resists borrowing too much from the incisive rhythmic bite of the later Walton. Richard Jenkinson’s cello tone, too, is happily free of the hectoring manner that’s so prevalent nowadays: his moments of dialogue with Louise Williams’s viola are something special.

 Attractive and impressive as the Walton and Bridge works are, they pursue lower musical horizons than the unfinished two-movement Quartet of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu, who died in 1894 at the age of 24. The sense of this music’s power surging outwards from within is wonderfully conveyed here; there’s no mistaking the voice of an already major composer who would have achieved great things if he had lived.

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Malcolm Hayes