Maggini Quartet

William Alwyn: String Quartets Nos. 1-3; Novelette

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Amazingly enough, this superlative 2008 Naxos recording of William Alwyn's three string quartets by the Maggini Quartet is not the works' first recording. A Dutton disc with performances by the Rasumovsky Quartet preceded it in 2005. In the event, both discs bear excellent performances of Alwyn's superbly composed if heretofore nearly completely ignored modernist quartets. Both groups have first-class techniques and alert ensembles, but the Maggini is better at Alwyn's lean and sinewy Allegros and his latter, more aggressive style, while the Rasumovsky is better at Alwyn's long and lyrical Adagios and his earlier, smoother style. Either set of performances would certainly serve those unfamiliar with the repertoire, though the Rasumovsky's coupling of the evocative Three Winter Poems is substantially longer than the Maggini's brief, early Novelette. For the Alwyn addict, of course, nothing less than both will do, though Dutton's digital sound is warmer and deeper than Naxos' cooler, more colorful sound.

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