Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|John Foulds, Endellion String Quartet, Andrew Watkinson|
Foulds: Chamber Music
So you thought Janacek's and Britten's String Quartets were
Discophage | France | 09/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
I count both Janacek's and Britten's String Quartets among the most searingly lyrical compositions in the genre written in the 20th Century. Until I heard this Foulds disc, I also thought they were uniquely original. John Foulds long remained an all-but-forgotten figure of British music. Born in 1880, the son of a bassoonist in the Hallé Orchestra, he had a measure of success in the 1920s, and his huge World Requiem was given a yearly performance in London between 1923 and 1926, but his success as a composer of light music overshadowed his more serious endeavors, to his great irritation. When the World Requiem fell out of favor Foulds career suffered a setback, and eventually he established in India, working on a synthesis of Eastern and Western music, writing for ensembles of traditional Indian instruments, using quarter-tones and Indian scales (although he had grown an interest in them much earlier). But his geographical remoteness and sudden death of cholera in 1939 durably put him out of the music scene. The staunch advocacy of musicologist Malcolm MacDonald and this recording by Pearl and the Endellion String Quartet, made in 1981 (which is the medium through which I discovered the composer, some years ago), signalled the beginning of a revival, which had a (small) recent culmination with the release by Warner Classics of two discs of orchestral music conducted by Sakari Oramo (John Foulds: Three Mantras and John Foulds: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures III), and by Chandos of the first modern performance of the World Recording under Leon Botstein, Foulds: A World Requiem [Hybrid SACD] (all this info comes from the excellent article published on the invaluable, free and user-operated Internet encyclopedia). More a trickle than a flood, but a trickle is better than a drought.
According to MacDonald Foulds composed ten String Quartets, without numbering them, of which apparently only four survive complete, eight of these being early works composed before he was thirty. Quartetto intimo op 89 is Fould's 9th and was composed in 1931, after a long period during which the composer didn't tackle the genre. So, it has the intense and searing lyricism and the strange twists of phrase of Janacek's Quartet or Britten's first two. I also hear traces of Ravel's. These references are mentioned only to give the reader an idea of what is in store, not to imply that the composition is derivative. It remained unplayed until the premiere given in 1980 by the same Endellion Quartet who recorded it here. Coming back to it some twenty years (oh can it be that long) after first hearing it, I am as breath-taken as the first time. How could such a masterpiece have remained so long forgotten, and how is it possible that it hasn't had any subsequent recordings?
Unfortunately most of the 10th Quartet, Quartetto geniale, composed in India in 1935, has been lost. Only fragments of the first movement remain and a complete draft of the slow third movement, "Lento Quieto". It is very tender, lullaby-like, then broodingly passionate and dramatic, quite beautiful but not as original as Quartetto intimo. This recording is believed to be the first performance.
"Aquarelles" is an earlier composition and isn't as original. In fact, according to the liner notes they are apparently a compilation, made around 1914, of movements written earlier and independently. Foulds regrouped them under the general title of Music-Pictures Group 2, the second of nine such suites written for various forces ranging from full orchestra to solo piano. The first Aquarelle, apparently originally written in 1911 for piano trio (part of the Music-Pictures Group 1), and the third, adapted from a piano piece, "English tune with Burden" (meaning "refrain"), possibly written also in 1914, are reminiscent and derivative of Dvorak. The original piano piece by the way can be found on Peter Jacobs' Foulds piano collection on Altarus, John Foulds: Seven Essays in the Modes, etc.. The second is the earliest (1905) and also the best, imbued with a mood of a despondent and passionate despair (and some depressivequarter-tone slides, too, at 3:54). Debussy's Quartet comes to mind.
TT is 54 minutes. The uncredited author of the very informative liner notes is presumably Malcolm MacDonald himself, the scholar who single-handedly set the Foulds revival in motion.
More chamber music of Foulds, please.
An essential CD
Julian Torralba Ibaņez | Spain | 07/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD was the first to return Foulds the fame once possessed. Very well written, very original, and very pleasant music. Endellian Quartet does it very well. Don't miss it."