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Casken, Saxton & Weir - String Quartets

John Casken: String Quartet no. 2 (1996)
Judith Weir:
String Quartet (1990)
Robert Saxton:
Songs, Dances and Ellipses (1998)

Metier MSV 28507 [recorded 1999-2002, 63 mins]

Three well contrasted examples of British middle of the road composition from the last decade of the 20th C.

Accessible modernism might be a way to characterise them; nothing simplistic or minimalist, nor is it music which is almost unplayable and incomprehensible as with some of the "new complexity" composers.

Casken's 2nd quartet has a winning energy and vitality, with its movements encouraginglyly described as with piquant verve; with jazzy obstinacy; with haunted fascination; with playful determintation.

Saxton's grew from a set piece for the 1994 London International String Quartet Competition, at which the UK Vellinger Quartet were the proud winners. It is sonorous and rich in conception, a work to enjoy and need to re-hear; ideal for recording.

Weir's is in complete contrast, typicallyeconomical in its sound world, spare in textures and shorter than the other two.

It makes a good programme for listening straight through, just over an hour in all, well recorded with the Kreutzer Quartet in excellent form in its early '90s line-up, the inner parts Gordon Mackay & Bridget Carey, with the long lasting stalwarts Peter Sheppard Skaerved (founder/leader) and Neil Heyde, who also provides helpful descriptive notes.

Peter Grahame Woolf