The Dante Quartet marked their recorded cycle for Dutton of the string quartets of Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) with four live recitals at Blackheath, each programme featuring also one of the great French string quartets.
The Edmund Rubbra quartets were revelatory and I have welcomed the opportunity to hear them at leisure on CD. They are tonal, but less conservative than may first appear – he was an independent original who injected new life into familiar forms; form guided by content and its contrapuntal elaboration. They bear repetition and are good for home listening.
The first of the four has two grand sonorous movements followed by a crisp little finale, disconcertingly brief and leaving the audience at the interval eager to hear his others. The Second is on a larger scale, earnest, eschewing ornament and any frivolity, but wholly compelling in this performance.
The Third Quartet is mainly intense and dense, but lightens for the end. A mainly introspective work, as is Rubbra's oeuvre as a whole. His last quartet, the Fourth, for another serious minded quartets composer, Robert Simpson, is in two movements balancing dancing and serious music.
The Dante Quartet's two CDs of Rubbra Quartets are wholly recommendable, their value enhanced by the additional works included. The performances are exemplary as is the presentation in the booklets. They are good examples of the debt that record collectors owe to small companies like Dutton.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf