ALBUM TITLE: Beamish, Beethoven
WORKS: String Quartets
PERFORMER: Emperor Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1511
Sally Beamish writes for the string quartet like an ‘insider’. Playing viola in the first movement of Beethoven’s Op. 18 No. 4 at the age of 14 was a decisive experience, and her Second Quartet, Opus California, was partly conceived as a kind of tribute to Beethoven’s magnificently compact musical drama. While it is possible to enjoy Beamish’s Second Quartet without knowing the work it draws on, hearing the two side by side in these strong and intelligent performances is stimulating and at times rather touching. While there is much more to Opus California than a whimsical collage, Beamish’s ‘sampling’ of ideas from Op. 18 No. 4, also pays tribute to Beethoven’s somewhat unsettling humour, as well as to the warmth and directness she experienced when visiting California’s Cabrillo Festival.
This contrasts very effectively with the more serious, ‘world’ folk-inflected lyricism of the First Quartet, again played with great conviction and focused musical intelligence. Stephen Johnson