THE MUSIC OF TWO ENGLISH FRIENDS

SOMM Recordings celebrates the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ birth with a compellingly crafted CD that features the estimable Tippett Quartet in the music of Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Gustav Holst.

Playing as one, violinists John Mills and Jeremy Isaac, violist Lydia Lowndes-Northcott, and cellist Bozidar Vukotic  bring to vivid life Vaughan-Williams’ 1908 String Quartet No.1 in G minor, an early-career work later revised by the composer in 1922, that clearly bespeaks what the 36-year-old composer was up to.

In his elucidating liner notes, Robert Matthew-Walker makes it clear why the always poetic, often bucolic, post-Romantic 1908 Vaughan Williams of The Lark Ascending does not at all sound like the 71-year-old composer who penned the dramatic, at times mournful String Quartet No.2 in A.

A work structured in a Prelude, a long-lined Romance, a jittery Scherzo, and a dark-hued Epilogue, set atypically to a resignedly measured Andante, rather to the predictable ending Allegro of most string quartets, Vaughan-Williams 1945 composition is the work of an artist nearing the end of a life well lived confronting the end of a devastating war in a tragically unhinged world.

Gustav Holst’s light-hearted Phantasy Quartet gets a lovely reading by the players of the Tippett Quartet in a CD that pairs contrasting works by two colleagues whose friendship commenced in music college at the end of the 19th century and lasted for decades thereafter. Vaughan Williams studied with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel, a mentorship that deeply influenced the young composer, while Holst, a resolute Edwardian always marched to the beat of his Edwardian drum.

Recorded at the start of 2022, elegantly produced by Siva Oke, and perfectly engineered by Adaq Khan, the SOMM 0656 CD is available come September of this year, from www.somm-recordings.com

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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