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

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COMPOSERS: Wood
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 4
PERFORMER: Chilingirian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51239 2 DDD
Hugh Wood’s four string quartets add up to a substantial corpus of music both in duration and in expressive range. In the Third Quartet, a dynamic transition from despair and inertia to rebirth of strength and joy is written into the music through a programmatic structure of quotes from the poetry of Donne and Herbert, and an oblique reference to the composer’s earlier setting of a Laurie Lee poem.

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Elsewhere, the honest utterance of feeling seems a natural outcome of the musical processes, which range from a profound Schoenbergian working out of materials to an absorption with intricate semi-aleatorical textures, probably inspired by the example of Roberto Gerhard.

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The Second Quartet mixes rhythmically measured sections with unsynchronised passages to brilliant effect, and with a sense of organic growth that is felt throughout its 39 brief sections. In contrast, the Fourth Quartet is a four-movement work in the Classical pattern, finely contrapuntal, and with a slow movement of Mahlerian intensity. As in the First Quartet, a short introduction provides ideas that prove important for the rest of the piece. The Chilingirians play this music, written for them in 1992-3, with understanding and commitment – qualities that apply equally to the other quartets on the disc. Nicholas Williams