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John Ramsay is a Professor of Geology by profession but also a highly talented composer of chamber and orchestral works. These four quartets are excellent examples of post-modernist music, employing no artificial boundaries. They are extremely accessible and highly deserving of attention – beautifully played. A real discovery is instore for lovers of the string quartet idiom.
The Fitzwilliam’s friendship with Prof. Ramsay dates back to his daughter Alison’s violin lessons with Jonathan Sparey, when the group was Quartet-in-Residence at the University of York. More recently, the Fitzwilliam were deeply honoured to be chosen to perform the newly commissioned Quartet No.4 at the Darwin Festival in Cambridge during the bi-centenary celebrations, and subsequently to include this on the current CD of the complete (to date) Ramsay Quartets, in celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday.
They are one of the few string quartets in the world using Classical instruments for the appropriate repertoire, and perhaps unique in that they perform on both historical and modern set-ups (sometimes within the same concert).
In November 2010 their second violinist, Jonathan Sparey, decided to retire after 37 years in the quartet, and the present CD includes the FSQ’s first recordings with his young successor Colin Scobie. Indeed, this collection happily spans the actual handover, with Jonathan playing in Quartets 1 and 4, Colin in Nos.2 and 3.
John Ramsay: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor
II. Molto moderato
IV. Lento - Rondo vivace
John Ramsay: String Quartet No. 2 in E minor, "Shackleton"
III. Adagio molto - Funeral March
IV. Allegro, flamenco - Adagio molto
John Ramsay: String Quartet No. 3 in C major
I. Adagio - Allegro con spirito
V. Allegro moderato
John Ramsay: String Quartet No. 4, "Charles Darwin"