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Dan Welcher - String Quartets Nos 1 - 3

Cassatt String Quartet

Naxos American Classics 8.559384

Nothing to surprise or shock in the smoothly polished quartets of this very accomplished American composer. Sample here the sound of his piece about Sydney Harbour, which "should leave listeners feeling good humour and affection".

Prolific and successful, his music doesn't seem to have crossed the Atlantic and maybe won't, nor will that likely trouble Dan Welcher (b.1948).

What I did find interesting is his very detailed descriptions of each work, the first devised to be, by turns, "abrasive, melancholy, tragic, soothing, comic and victorious", the 3rd (which shares its name with the the players' and the creator of the familiar cover ilustration) with detailed programmes (like those of earlier fashionable Tone Poems) for each of its three titled movements. Clearly, that helps him to structure his music, but maybe it's sometimes better to keep these exra-musical triggers as composers' secrets.

However, if you want something you don't know in a familiar tonal-sounding style (he does use a tone row, numerology, system controlling "durations, pitches, meters and melodies, harmonies and colours - but not in any way serialiszed") these will make a change and provide novelty of a degree that oughtn't to decimate ticket sales.

Well played and recorded by a personable young group and Naxos' encouraging budget price, which must figure these recessional days....

Peter Grahame Woolf