Bax. Elgar

LABELS: Discrete Recordings
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1. String Quartet
PERFORMER: Pavão Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Discrete Recordings disc 0701
This is an interesting, not to say risky choice by the Pavão for their first recording of full-length works. The Bax is by no means proven ground as repertoire – even Bax enthusiasts rarely stick their necks out for it. And the Elgar, fine and subtly atmospheric as it is, isn’t performance-proof – the long chains of repeated rhythms can plod if not given the necessary lift. The Pavão however have clearly put a great deal of thought into both performances. In the Elgar the first movement in particular is a demonstration of Elgarian ebb and flow, with just a hint of an airy dance in the background. The players have a strong feeling for expressive shading too, bringing out those typical autumnal woodland half-lights without any kind of exaggeration. The other two movements are good too, though it’s the Britten Quartet (Regis) who convey most successfully the unsettling ambiguity at the heart of the second, and the faltering resolution in the finale. Bax’s music can so easily sound fatally discursive – good in parts but inclined to drift off and lose the thread. The Pavão make the First Quartet sound remarkably coherent, and, as with the Elgar, they give the impression of taking pleasure in the evocation of romantic moods. But it’s never self-indulgent, and there’s plenof energy, precision and clarity, with an impressive sense of lively rapport between the four players. Recordings are good too, with a good profile of the quartet – the voices distinct but well integrated.