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CD Review

20th-Century British Composers

Chamber Works

  • Lennox Berkeley:
  • Violin Sonatina
  • Sextet
  • Alan Bush:
  • 3 Concert Studies, Op. 31
  • 4 Piano Pieces
  • Alan Rawsthorne: Clarinet Quartet
The Music Group of London
Aeolian Quartet
Lyrita SRCD256 73m DDD
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For the past two years, the Lyrita label has been at the forefront of recorded British music. A huge number of marvelous works, in all genres have been resurrected and can now be enjoyed in all their original beauty.

This disc surveys three composers, who have much in common but whose language has a certain diversity. All three were roughly contemporaries; Berkeley (1903-1989), Bush (1900-1995) and Rawsthorne (1905-1971), and the pieces on this programme were written during a five-year span; 1943-48.

Berkeley's Sonatina for Violin and Piano is a succinct little work full of technical and emotional imprints, while the Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and Strings is a prime example of the composer's fastidious craft.

Bush wrote the three concert studies for piano trio with the intention of tackling specific technical hurdles such as intonation and ensemble at speed and the merging of balance and tone, but the vitality and eloquence of the pieces raises them to a level of poetic brilliance.

Rawsthorne's Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello has a very unconventional pairing of instruments and displays the composer's urgency and conviction of his argument which is full on anxious unrest.

Performances are cogent and committed, and the many tricky passages are all dispatched with a disarming alacrity. This disc is a fine example of all that was best in British chamber music during the first half of the last century.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech