Delius & Smyth - String Quartets | Naxos 8574376

Delius & Smyth - String Quartets

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Label: Naxos

Cat No: 8574376

Barcode: 0747313437672

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 14th October 2022



The String Quartet in E minor by Ethel Smyth, one of the most innovative and original figures in English music, has a masterful coherence and consistency. With eloquent writing for the viola in particular, it is both playful and reverential, and ends with a flourish – forthright, bold and uncompromising, like Smyth herself. Delius wrote the early String Quartet in 1888 but it was rejected for performance and he was later to reuse the Scherzo for his mature Quartet of 1916–19 (8573586). In 2018 the score of the two opening movements of the 1888 Quartet, long assumed lost, reappeared at auction and have been edited and reunited with the final two in this premiere recording, which adds significantly to our understanding of Delius’ early compositional directions.

This album is the first recording of the complete 1888 Delius String Quartet, following the quartet’s previous Naxos release of the original 1916 Delius String Quartet (8573586) where it was coupled with the Elgar Quartet. ‘Performances of both pieces are excellent. The styles greatly differ, but the Villiers is at home in both. Their intonation is firm, with rhythms and phrasing reinforcing the structural integrity of both works’, wrote American Record Guide.

The Villiers Quartet focuses on British works as seen with their Peter Racine Fricker disc on 8571374 about which Gramophone wrote, ‘Listening to these marvellously sympathetic, wellprepared performances from the Villiers Quartet, one wonders why they are not better known.’ They are also a strong presence on a William Sterndale Bennett disc on 8571379: ‘Brilliant and scintillating are adjectives that could be used to describe these performances as well’ (Fanfare).

Robert Still’s four quartets can be heard on 8571353: ‘No praise can be too high for these sublimely articulate and concentrated readings by the Villiers Quartet, for whose leader, James Dickenson, the whole project was very much a labour of love. Admirable sound and balance, too’ (Gramophone).

The Villiers Quartet is one of the most recognised quartets in the UK for the performance of British music, releasing acclaimed recordings of works by Elgar, Delius, Fricker, Alwyn, William Sterndale Bennett, David Matthews and Kuljit Bhamra, MBE. In 2020 the quartet gave the world premiere of the 1888 Delius String Quartet, featuring movements from original versions uncovered by Professor Daniel Grimley from Oxford University. The broad curiosity of the Villiers Quartet and its passion for teaching and performing have made the ensemble a valuable resource for students and audiences alike. Inspiration comes from the heart of the Villiers Quartet’s philosophy: to believe in the art of string quartet.

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