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Beamish-Beethoven String Quartets  

Sally Beamish String Quartets Nos.1
& 2, ‘Opus California'
Beethoven String Quartet in C Minor, Op18 No.4

Emperor String Quartet

BIS-CD-1511 (TT 54 mins; recorded June 2004 at Weston Church, Hertfordshire)  

One often has a somewhat lowering experience when encountering modern work next to an undisputed masterpiece (this is particularly true in my experience in art galleries) but I came away thrilled and excited by this successful programming.

The specific link between the wonderful Opus 18 Beethoven quartet and Sally Beamish's quartets lies in the use of Beethoven's first and second subjects and bridge passage for her second quartet, but there is a more general link between the works in the questing spirit and the boldness that shines out of all the music on the disc.

The playing throughout captures the exuberance and openness in the music but the players also capture the serious quality in the third movement of the first Beamish Quartet. The Beethoven is performed at a fair speed with a breathtaking conclusion, and its humour brought out without being overemphasised.

An excellent disc that I hope is repeated in performance, perhaps with one of the Opus 20 Haydn quartets as a fourth corner of the programme, as soon as possible.  


Fast Forward- into the millennium.
String Quartets for the twenty-first century

Kevin Malone. Fast Forward Camerata Ensemble
David Ellis. String Quartet No.2 Coull Quartet
John Casken. String Quartet No.2-The Lindsays
Robin Walker. I thirst- Camerata Ensemble
Geoffrey Poole. String Quartet No.2-Camerata Ensemble
Anthony Gilbert. String Quartet No.3-Nossek Quartet

ASC CS CD11 (TT 79 mins) 1996/1999

This CD of new pieces by composers with connections to the North West of England has no real thematic link. The works all meet the classic criteria of being well crafted and performed with conviction and the programme works well for listeners that don't just want to listen to stand alone pieces, with the items being placed in an order that brings out their contrasts.

One can imagine the Tavener and Robin Walker's Pärt-like piece, with their evocation of spiritual yearning, becoming popular in today's climate and the barnstorming, big Kevin Malone quartet, as ideal for an encore.

The other longer works would fit into any programme as the centre piace of a three-quartet recital programme. Perhaps an enterprising ensemble form the North West would like to build a programme along these lines and bring them to London?