Hyperion has reissued on its midpriced Helios label this fine program of English works for string quartet, recorded in 1994. The composers, born approximately 20 years apart in the order given in the headnote, offer an insight into the evolutionary trends in British music before, throughout, and after the 20th century’s two Great Wars.
The String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Opus 11, was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first completed string quartet of three string quartets, published during his lifetime. (An earlier attempt had been abandoned after the first movement had been completed.) Composed in February 1871, it was premiered in Moscow on 16/28 March 1871 by four members of the Russian Musical Society: Ferdinand Laub and Ludvig Minkus, violins; Pryanishnikov, viola; and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, cello.
A year after honoring the band’s real-life namesake with a rock opera, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson is giving a dozen of the group’s songs the string quartet treatment. Jethro Tull: The String Quartets, due out March 24 and available to pre-order now, finds Anderson working alongside the Carducci Quartet and arranger/conductor John O’Hara to recast a dozen Tull tracks in a new light.
Vitamin takes on the brood and sway of Depeche Mode with this string quartet tribute, running through nine of the band's songs with the aid of violin, cello, acoustic bass, viola, and a bit of percussion. Like most string interpretations of pop music, the album can grow tedious over the long haul. However, there's plenty to like incrementally, especially for fans. Highlights include "Personal Jesus," with its hint of mouth percussion during the breakdown, and the violins aping the tradeoff vocals of "Master and Servant." There are a few glaring omissions – "Everything Counts" and "Policy of Truth" among them. Even still, Depeche Mode completists should get a kick out of the novelty and slight decadence of this collection.
Here's a recording that doesn't introduce its star name until it's more than half over, and works quite well on that account. The understanding of the opening work, Alban Berg's six-movement Lyric Suite (1926), has evolved since scholars discovered a secret copy of the work that, despite its use of the abstract 12-tone system, outlines a quite specific program depicting the course of the composer's extramarital affair with Dorothea Robetin the previous year. The finale was even shown to contain an unsung melody, a setting of a very relevant Baudelaire poem, and to be performable with the melody sung.
This second volume of miscellaneous chamber works contains all of the music that is not a formal quartet, quintet, or sextet. In includes the piano trios, the wonderful Terzetto for two violins and viola, works for solo instrument and piano, pieces for piano four-hands, and all of those little, undefinable works, some of which (such as the Bagatelles for two violins, cello, and harmonium) are magnificent.