Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Classic chamber works

From June 4, 2015:


Since its premiere at the Cambridge Elgar Festival in 1994 Thomas Ades’ Arcadiana has become a standard of the string quartet literature. I’ve heard and enjoyed the Endellion Quartet (who performed the premiere) on Warner Classics, and the Signum Quartet on Capriccio, and there are other performances you can listen to on YouTube. It’s such an appealing and interesting piece, and so well played by the Calder Quartet on this new Signum Records disc. Ades quotes Mozart, Schubert and Elgar in some of the characteristic pieces that make up the suite, and I swear I heard a bit of Ravel’s Introduction & Allegro in the first Venetian gondola movement. But all of this music has the distinctive sound of Ades, which I find so appealing.

This disc also includes two more recent works: the Piano Quintet from 2001, and the world premiere recording of The Four Quarters from 2011. The latter work is an extension of the sound world of Arcadiana, though it has its own programme, and is more complex rhythmically. It’s just as appealing as the earlier work, though, and should have its own popularity on the concert stage and in recordings in the coming years.

The Piano Quintet is often angular and forceful, and when things quieten down, there’s an instability to the music that’s a bit unsettling. The composer himself plays the piano part, so one feels the authenticity of the performance. Indeed, we are in good hands throughout this excellent program.

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