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For British composer William Alwyn CBE the string quartet was the “most perfect of mediums”.
His String Quartet No. 1 of 1953 recalls the sound worlds of Dvorák, Janácek and Smetana, while repaying his debt to the Czech tradition with memorably original music.
Almost 22 years later, his Second Quartet, ‘Spring Waters’, was prefaced by lines from Turgenev’s novel of the same name: “My careless years, / My precious days, / like the waters of springtime, / Have melted away.”
The passionate opening of his Third, composed in 1984 and Alwyn’s swansong, leads to a conclusion of elegiac serenity.
William Alwyn: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor
I. Moderato e grazioso
II. Allegro molto
IV. Allegro vivace, molto ritmico
William Alwyn: String Quartet No. 2, "Spring Waters"
I. Moderato - Lento - Adagio
II. Allegro scherzando
III. Adagio - Allegro moderato - Adagio e tranquillo - Allegro al fine
William Alwyn: String Quartet No. 3
I. Allegro molto
II. Adagio - Allegro - Adagio
William Alwyn: Novelette
“The Maggini Quartet's exceptional performances match the music's circle-squaring balance of steely incisiveness and lyrical warmth.”
“…the Magginis… play with the utmost perception and have been vividly recorded. Purchase with confidence.”
“Superb readings by the Maggini Quartet, renowned for promoting English music.”
“Between 1920 and 1936 Alwyn wrote no fewer than 13 string quartets, but it was not until 1953 that the 48-year-old composer produced what he regarded as his official No 1. A splendid achievement it is, too, as consummately crafted, organically integrated and emotionally involving as the mighty Second and Third Symphonies flanking it, and reaching genuine heights in the Adagio slow movement (literally so, in fact, as the first violin climbs into the stratosphere to heart-stoppingly beautiful effect). Completed in September 1975, the Second Quartet is a much darker beast and derives its subtitle Spring Waters from Turgenev's eponymous novel. The composer's description of the central Allegro scherzando as recalling 'the lost turbulence of youth and young love, but seen “as through a glass darkly”' strikes to the heart of this gritty, uncommonly terse essay, which ends in a mood of hard-won triumph. The twomovement Third Quartet of 1984 proved to be Alwyn's swansong and if anything boasts the most idiomatically assured writing of the three. It's also a deeply moving work, with a rapt lyrical flow, clear-sighted logic and exquisite refinement of which Ravel himself would have been proud. The Novelette (a winsome miniature from 1938-39) rounds off yet another absorbing anthology from the Magginis, who play with the utmost perception and have been vividly recorded.”
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