Alfred Hill was practically the first composer of any reputation from down under, a generation older than Percy Grainger, though born in Melbourne; he was raised in New Zealand and considered himself a native. He studied at the Leipzig Conservatory in the 1880s and sounds like it; his chamber music, as represented by Naxos' Alfred Hill: String Quartets, Vol. 2, featuring New Zealand's Dominion Quartet, treads a rather narrow stylistic path between Brahms and Elgar. Yet for that, it isn't at all bad; it is lively rather than stodgy and sufficiently tuneful if not memorably so, and Hill was certainly well versed in the capabilities of stringed instruments and the quartet medium. The Dominion Quartet is obviously dedicated to the cause of Hill's music and performs it in a grand, expansive style reminiscent of the Hollywood String Quartet; every phrase is clear, well-modulated, and singing, with every dynamic marking taken as gospel. Naxos, to its end, provides the appropriate atmosphere in delivering a clear, forward, and intimately placed recording. Alfred Hill: String Quartets, Vol. 2, is in every way listenable and appealing; the only thing missing is some measure of substance and depth, and the lack of such aspect is attributable to Hill's music alone. Nevertheless, for some hearers, "listenable and appealing" is enough, and it would seem unfair to condemn this fine disc just on the basis that it does not provide challenge and that the music seems reactionary for its time (1916-1934). Donald Maurice's well-considered liner notes seem to indicate that there are string quartets of Hill apart from these -- particularly No. 11, the composer's personal favorite -- that make his case for Hill a bit more eloquently.
AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis
|String Quartet No. 4 in C minor|
|String Quartet No. 6 in G major, ('The Kids')|
|String Quartet No. 8 in A major|