Maggini Quartet

Berkeley: String Quartets Nos. 1-3

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This disc, another in the Maggini Quartet's series of recordings of string quartets by twentieth century English composers for Naxos, brings together the three quartets of Lennox Berkeley. And as in the group's previous recordings of quartets by Bridge, Arnold, and Rawsthorne, the music proves as excellent as it is unexpected. Berkeley's quartets date from 1935, 1941, and 1970, and each sounds like a work of its time yet still characteristic of the composer. The early four-movement First echoes Bartók and Stravinsky, the mature three-movement Second is more individualistic and more aggressive, while the four-movement Third, though tinged with the expressivity of Berg and Schoenberg, is still wholly typical of the composer's own brand of pugnacious modernity. As in its previous discs, the Maggini Quartet turns in performances that are technically impeccable, elegantly stylish, and highly persuasive. Listeners as yet unacquainted with Berkeley's music might consider his more immediately attractive orchestral works first, but those who already know his orchestral music need have no hesitations about trying his string quartets. Naxos' digital sound is typically simple, direct, and effective.

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