SOMM Recordings’ historic complete survey of Charles Villiers Stanford’s String Quartets by the Dante Quartet reaches its end with a third volume focusing on Nos. 1 and 2, and the first recording of No. 6. Already acclaimed as a composer of choral music, Stanford came relatively late to the string quartet form, composing his first two at the age of 39 in 1891. Six more followed over the next three decades, including the Op. 122 String Quartet, No. 6 in 1910. This final volume features the early String Quartets, Opp. 44 (No. 1) and 45 (No. 2) which share a concern for meticulous use of individual instrument voices and a leaning towards lyricism. Allusions to Beethoven and Mozart are contained within Stanford’s own beautifully crafted music.Read more Heard here in its premiere recording, the Sixth String Quartet is a work of rich contrasts, restless energy and some of Stanford’s most expressive writing for the medium. Volume I (SOMMCD 0160) was admired as “an excellent disc in every respect” (MusicWeb International), applauded as “most enterprising and thoroughly likeable” (Classical Ear) and acclaimed “a really worthwhile release” (Gramophone). Volume II (SOMMCD 0185) was described as “essential listening... SOMM and the Dantes have broken important new ground with impressive commitment” by Gramophone and by Limelight as being “played with great élan and sensitivity by the excellent Dante Quartet”.
The Dante Quartet play splendidly throughout the album, with noticeably clean articulation and gratifying intonation. Unerringly accomplished, these Dante performances, combined with spirited interpretations that breathe vitality and enthusiasm, would pass the most rigorous examination. The engineering team, recording in St Nicholas Parish Church, Thames Ditton, has provided first class sound quality. Stanford biographer Jeremy Dibble has written the booklet notes. Lovers of British music, and Stanford in particular, need not hesitate in acquiring this superb album.