Doric String Quartet

Purcell: String Fantasia in Four parts; Britten: String Quartets Nos. 1-3; Three Divertimenti

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The string quartets of Benjamin Britten are not exactly rare items, but with this release Britain's young Doric String Quartet vaults to the top of the pack. The album just has an uncanny sense of living in the music. Start with the nonpareil engineering work by Chandos at the concert hall of Snape Maltings, a place with which Britten was well acquainted. You can start sampling right at the arresting beginning of the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 25; the detailed textures of the string quartet are marvelously captured throughout. It's not insignificant that violist Hélène Clément plays Britten's own viola; in many places, such as the big final "Chacony" of the String Quartet No. 2, Op. 36, he gives the viola a lot to do, and Clément's performance is electric. The Chacony is an example of the neo-Baroque strain in Britten's music, aptly complemented here by a set of Fantasies by Henry Purcell. The Doric is not the first ensemble to join Britten and Purcell, but their performances, with the Purcell pieces working well in the string quartet medium, make it seem especially seamless. Again, the presence of Britten's fascinating String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94, almost his swan song but not terribly often played, is an attraction, and the performance is one of great detail and commitment. A top-notch Britten recording, and an exemplary feat of engineering.

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