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Cat. No. CHAN 10661 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10661 - Walton: String Quartets
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Available From: 15 February 2011
Walton: String Quartets

This new release represents one of the comparatively rare recordings of the highly attractive string quartets by William Walton, one of England’s finest composers. The works are performed by the Doric String Quartet, exclusive Chandos artists and among the youngest and most impressive quartets on the classical music scene today. Their recent release, of the string quartets by Korngold (CHAN 10611), was given ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Gramophone.

Walton’s two string quartets, written about a quarter of a century apart, are barely recognisable as the work of the same composer. The String Quartet of 1922, an extraordinarily ambitious work in terms of scale and technical demands, was written when Walton was in his late teens. The familiar Quartet in A minor is a work of Walton’s maturity, more compact in form, conservative in language, and relaxed in tone.

When first performed, the String Quartet of 1922 was met with a lukewarm response, which led Walton to withdraw it and to make several substantial cuts to the material. When the work was revived, a few years after his death, for performances and recordings – including its premiere recording, on Chandos (CHAN 8944, Gabrieli String Quartet) – these cuts were kept. This particular recording, however, offers the full-length and original version, as edited by Hugh MacDonald in 2008 for Oxford University Press’s William Walton Edition. Significantly, this quartet is for the most part conspicuously lacking in the Stravinskyan constant changes of time signature, which are such a prominent feature of the later works by Walton. In the composer’s own words, this work is ‘full of undigested Bartók and Schoenberg’.

It seems to have been in the late 1930s that Walton first agreed to write the String Quartet in A minor for the Bleech Quartet (led by Harry Bleech who later became the founding conductor of the London Mozart Players). But during the Second World War other projects intervened, mainly scores for war-time propaganda films, and it was not until late 1944 that Walton started work on the quartet. The return to the string quartet genre did not come easily to Walton. As he wrote to a friend in 1945, ‘I’m in a suicidal struggle with four strings and am making no headway whatsoever. Brick walls, slit trenches… I’m afraid I’ve done film music for too long’.

Despite his initial difficulty, the work gradually took shape, and Walton wrote to the same friend a short time later that he had ‘captured a trench’ and ‘overcome some barbed wire entanglements’. The String Quartet in A minor was completed in time for its successful premiere in 1947 by the Bleech Quartet in a chamber concert on the BBC’s new Third Programme.


       Top 100 Albums of 2011

No 7 - “Walton’s two string quartets make a satisfying disc, and this recording of No 1 is the first of the uncut original version. Quartet No 2 is a masterpiece of terse, tense English melancholia.”
The Sunday Times – 11 December 2011

"...heartily recommended..."
Phillip Scott - Fanfare - September/October 2011


  "Exceptional"     *****
Piero Rattalino – Musica – July/August 2011

“...The Doric Quartet play both works with an ultra-focused vividness that’s very effective in bringing out the early Quartet’s sophisticated, Schoenberg influenced range of light and shade. The technical standard is huge, too...”
Malcolm Hayes – BBC Music Magazine – 4 July 2011

“The Doric Quartet is superb in both works, and beautifully recorded. This is a significant addition to the catalogue of the 20th century string recordings.”
Terry Robbins – Thewholenote.com 25 May 2011

           Repertoire ****     Sound *****      Interpretation *****
Carsten Dürer – Ensemble magazine – June/July 2011

“The young members of the Doric Quartet bring expert and committed performances to the music; lets hope we hear more from them.”
“Walton’s String Quartet of 1919-1922] was distinctly modern at the time of its composition, sounding a bit like English Ravel with some attitude. It’s an enjoyable listen.”
“[The] inventiveness and craftsmanship [of the String Quartet A minor] are of a high order and most chamber music lovers will find it most interesting.”
Richard Todd – Opus Pocus – 4 April 2011


“... The recording is close with spatial reverberation that provides a wide soundstage. The Doric Quartet performs with a fiery intensity and lyrical sensitivity. This is an excellent disc of Walton quartets.” ****
Robert Moon – Audiophile Audition – 15 April 2011

"Exhilarating, dedicated performances from a talented young string quartet ... this is a terrific disc in every way."

Andrew Achenbach - Gramophone May 2011


"...Both works are superbly played by the Doric Quartet" ***
Paul Driver -           20 March 2011 - The Sunday Times

“Hats off first for the stunning recording. Every bow stroke hits home as if the players are there in your living room. Another bouquet for the musicians’ mastery of the three Ps: polish, passion, precision. Absorbing repertoire too... Fascinating, and the Dorics give it their all.” ****
Geoff Brown  - The Times – 5 March 2011                                                   


“...The Doric Quartet responds with great understanding...The recording, too, gives an excellent account of music that, even when Walton was young and inexperienced, shows the keenness of his ear for texture.”
John Warrack  International Record Review – March 2011                                   


"...The Doric gives outstanding, virtuoso performances of William Walton’s two string quartets. The first of them, formidable in its technical demands and harmonic language, is virtually unrecognisable from the Walton of maturity, embracing as it does the avant-garde ideas he flirted with in his youth. Walton said it was “full of undigested Bartók and Schoenberg”, but, when played with such panache, it provides a pungent contrast to the clarity and spry rhythmic sparring of the later A minor Quartet."  *****
Geoffrey Norris

The Independent - 25 February 2011


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