Jess Dandy (Contralto), Rebecca Lea (Soprano), James Robinson (Tenor), Will Dawes (Baritone)
The American critic Robert Reilly described the music on Volume One of this cycle of the complete string quartets of David Matthews (b. 1943) as ‘some of the most concentrated, penetrating writing for this medium in the past 30 years or more. It is musical thinking of the highest order and quartet writing in the great tradition of Beethoven, Bartok, Britten, and Tippett’. Matthews’ three most recent quartets call in a wide range of references. Birdsong – heard in Nos. 13 and 14 – is a standard Matthews topos; and the fugal No. 15 seems to find a middle ground between late Beethoven and folk-music. No. 13 presents the biggest surprise: it introduces four solo voices, siting the work somewhere between Berg’s Lyric Suite and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. Some touching arrangements and two canons for two Michaels – Tippett and Berkeley – complete the programme.