Considering how well William Alwyn’s music has fared on disc, perhaps it’s surprising that his Tenth through Thirteenth string quartets from the 1930s have not been recorded until now. After all, Alwyn always wrote effectively and beautifully for the genre.
While the Tenth’s four movements depict a sea voyage, somehow programmatic elements like the first movement’s gently rocking ostinatos, the second movement’s scampering violin lines depicting birds in flight, and the finale’s stormy, angular tuttis never sound clichéd (sound clip). The Eleventh’s first movement opens with a terse yet enigmatic motto theme that eventually generates robust and animated counterpoint. The second movement’s obsessive repeated pattern andRead more muted sonorities fuse delicacy and backbone, while the finale’s spacious rising and falling lines gradually build to an intense fortissimo.
The Twelfth is a one-movement fantasia that embraces more dissonant and freewheeling ideas, while the Thirteenth is harmonically and melodically more conservative, and lushly scored; notice, for example, the second movement’s blend of busy pizzicatos and whirling trills and the first movement’s frequent octave doublings and double stops.
In the case of recorded premieres such as these, critics tend to focus on the music more than the performances. However, one must credit the Tippett Quartet for giving vibrant and communicative voice to Alwyn’s wide expressive range and marvelous deployment of string textures among all four instruments, together with Somm’s warm, well blended engineering. Recommended.
Premiere recordings of appealing string quartetsMarch 24, 2017By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"These "early" string quartets by William Alwyn receive their first recordings in a fine disc from the Tippett Quartet. But these are hardly juvenilia, written as they were during the composer's late twenties and early thirties. Nor do they reveal any compositional defects or a feeling that we're listening while the composer is learning. Some composers (Villa-Lobos is an obvious example) aren't sufficiently self-critical, but by suppressing these works Alwyn seems to lean too far in the opposite direction. Luckily the Tippett Quartet and Somm Recordings (with support from the William Alwyn Foundation) have recorded these appealing works, and hopefully the previous nine quartets will eventually follow. The single movement No. 12 is the most experimental in sound, and the most intense in feeling. I can't imagine why Alwyn witheld this powerful work. It packs a lot in 13 minutes, and leaves a strong impression of passion, loss and mystery. It seems a natural piece to be picked up by other ensembles, though they would be hard pressed to improve on the playing of the Tippett Quartet. Both No. 11 and No. 13 have very positive passages as well, but my favourite is the 10th Quartet, a lovely suite of sea voyage pictures with echoes of Ravel and a strong sense of atmosphere."Report Abuse