Maggini Quartet

Edmund Rubbra: String Quartets Nos. 1, 3 & 4

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These string quartets by British composer Edmund Rubbra have been little known outside of their home country. They're not simple pieces, and none of the three, despite the fact that they're all somewhat different stylistically, really fits into any of the major strands of 20th century musical thought. Although Rubbra was championed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, there is very little of the British pastoral school in these quartets. Give them a try if the weightier side of modern British music appeals to you; the Maggini Quartet takes on these sizable scores with confidence that reveals itself in large-scale balance and line. Rubbra's style is rooted in late Romanticism, with long lines, counterpoint, and a good deal of chromaticism. The mood can fairly be called tragic, but there is little sense of anything outside of the music being referred to; the music is stately and somber. The String Quartet No. 1 in F minor, Op. 35, composed in the 1930s, is the most clearly tonal of the three works; the other two lack key designations and the two-movement String Quartet No. 4, Op. 150, is organized around a recurring seventh interval. But all three works are overflowing with melody, elegantly crafted into larger structures. This is chamber music in the classic sense of the word, challenging, involved, and somehow a bit spiritual; it's not for everyone, but for string quartet aficionados it's a nice find, and Naxos deserves another round of kudos for its latest excavation of modern British music.

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