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Record Box

Checking the pulse

Vaughan Williams and chamber music, with BASIL RAMSEY

Naxos    8.555300

Vaughan Williams String Quartets (c) 2001 HNH International Ltd


Ralph Vaughan Williams appears much the stronger as a symphonist than reducing matters to the intimacy of chamber music and four or five players. Judging by his output that would appear a reasonable assumption, but my wariness in matters obvious or otherwise accepts that this could be wrong.

This collection of a string quintet and two quartets does not provide a clear cut answer. The musical content is unequivocally VW, whether early (not long after study with Ravel), or as late as the forties. The writing generally accepts the intimacy of the genre, yet I sense the bigger canvas of larger forces looming occasionally. Modality in the inimitable VW mould also takes a hand. The characteristic signs find a place in the scherzo of the G minor quartet [listen -- track 6, 0:00-0:50]. But listen to the scherzo of the later quartet and there's a tougher argument in progress [listen -- track 11, 1:12-1:36].

Valuable is such a record as this when music from different periods of a composer's musical travels allows both comparison and enjoyment. The playing is idiomatic and utterly convincing.


Copyright © 16 May 2001 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK







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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews