SOMM Recordings celebrates the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth with insightful, deeply felt accounts of his String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2, coupled with Gustav Holst’s Phantasy Quartet, by the Tippett Quartet.
This major release sheds new light on one of the enduring friendships of 20th-century British music, Vaughan Williams and Holst having first met at the Royal College of Music in 1895.
Vaughan Williams’ early interest in chamber music was fired by lessons with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel, which prompted his String Quartet No.1 in G minor in 1908, later revised in 1922.
It reveals Vaughan Williams, as Robert Matthew-Walker’s authoritative booklet notes suggest, “at his subtlest and most varied: lively, intense and rhythmically delightful… Nothing quite like this had appeared in English chamber-music up to that time”.
His last but one chamber work, the A minor String Quartet No.2 (dedicated to Jean Stewart, violist of the Menges Quartet who gave its premiere in October 1944) gives prominence to the viola. Coloured by wartime experience, it is a work of “turbulence and angst… an unemotional contemplation of bleak vistas” that movingly gives way to consoling serenity.
Holst’s attractive Phantasy Quartet from 1917, heard here in Roderick Swanston’s edition commissioned by the Tippett Quartet who gave its first performance on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune, is based on four British folk-songs and offers “easy-going charm as well as much playfulness and warmth”.
The release continues the Tippett Quartet’s championing of British chamber music on SOMM, most recently with Dedication which focused on Ruth Gipps’ clarinet-led music (SOMMCD 0641) and was “recommended” by Gramophone.
Their coupling of string quartets by William Alwyn and Doreen Carwithen (SOMMCD 0194) merited a five-star BBC Music Magazine review and was praised by The Strad for its “radiant insight and affection… utterly captivating”.
On This Recording
- I Prelude – Allegro appassionato
- II Romance – Largo
- III Scherzo – Allegro
- IV Epilogue – Andante sostenuto
- Phantasy on British Folksongs, Op. 36 (ed. Swanston)
- I Allegro moderato
- II Minuet and Trio. Tempo di Minuetto – Trio
- III Romance – Andante sostenuto
- IV Finale – Rondo capriccioso. Allegro molto
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS String Quartet No. 2 in A minor
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS String Quartet No. 1 in G minor
“a wonderful new recording pairing RVW's two string quartets with the Phantasy by his close friend Gustav Holst. I particularly love the first Vaughan Williams quartet in G Minor. … it breathes an ecstasy unique to RVW… The Tippett Quartet, celebrating its own 25th anniversary, plays all the music as if coached by Hamlet, neither sawing the air nor tearing passion to tatters, but suiting the action to the notes. It is an ideal approach, and very expressive in the rapturous moments RVW shares with us. … close, immediate, and beautifully spacious, with excellent presence.” —Ted Libby, The Absolute Sound (4.5 Stars Music & Sound) “Recordings of Vaughan Williams’s two numbered string quartets have never been exactly thick on the ground, so a hearty welcome to these superbly accomplished – and excellently engineered – performances. Displaying both consummate technical skill and keen conviction, the Tippett Quartet prove especially persuasive champions… We’re also treated to the compact Phantasy on British Folk Songs by RVW’s dear friend, Gustav Holst… Once more, the Tippett Quartet do full justice to this attractive find, which is the icing on the cake of a truly irresistible offering.” —Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone