Julian Bliss / Tippett Quartet

Bernard Herrmann: Psycho Suite for String Quartet

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Remembered as one of the most important composers of film music in the 20th century, Bernard Herrmann is saluted in this 2011 release by the Tippett Quartet. Featuring an arrangement for string quartet of the effective soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, along with two original chamber pieces written by Herrmann in the mid-'60s, this album provides insights that fans of the composer will find fascinating. Echoes (1965) is cast in a single-movement for string quartet and evokes the modal style of Bartók, sustaining a quiet, meditative mood for two-thirds of the piece, until a startling eruption of frightening music breaks the stability and introduces more astringent counterpoint. Souvenir de Voyage (1967) is a clarinet quintet composed in a style similar to Echoes, and clarinetist Julian Bliss carries much of the work's nostalgic expression in long-breathed melodies in the dark chalumeau register. But the most interesting work of the program is Richard Birchall's string quartet arrangement of the Psycho score, which lends real excitement to what is otherwise a rather pensive album. The infamous music from the shower scene is the piece's climax at 07:20, though the other familiar themes prepare for it, and the listener is held in suspense for the duration of the performance. The quality of the playing is quite high, and the audio is close-up and clear, though the ambience of the album is a little dry.

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