Doric String Quartet

Walton: String Quartets

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William Walton's style became more conservative as he got older, and the string quartet he began in 1919, while still a student at Oxford, was one of his few out-and-out avant-garde works. It's intriguing in a way to hear such music emanating from a British context, in which there were few models for such a thing, but the original work recorded here, at 35 minutes plus, is a pretty tough slog for the listener, with little of the mature composer's sensitivity and wit and a ponderous contrapuntal finale. Walton himself conceded that the music is "full of undigested Bartók and Schoenberg, and he later made cuts and revived the work. Britain's Doric String Quartet gives what is proudly proclaimed to be the world-premiere recording of the original version, but annotator Anthony Burton launches into a generally accurate listing of the work's shortcomings. It's of interest to Walton fans for the hints of the composer of Façade to come, especially inasmuch as it's paired with a fine, alert performance of the String Quartet in A minor, one of the masterpieces of Walton's postwar output that catches the shade of sadness behind the music's expert Stravinskian dialogues. Beautiful engineering from Chandos is another attraction. Booklet notes are in English, German, and French.

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