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Edgar BAINTON (1880-1956) String Quartet in A major (1915 rev. 1920) [25:13]
Hubert CLIFFORD (1904-1959) String Quartet in D (1935) [28:35]
Locrian Ensemble: (Rita Manning (violin); Patrick Kiernan (violin); Morgan Goff (viola); Justin Pearson (cello))
rec. St Martin’s Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire, 4-5 October 2005
First recording on CD (Bainton); World premiere recording (Clifford)
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7163 [54:08]
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Bainton has been in harness with Clifford before now as you can see from MusicWeb’s reviews of two Chandos CDs by Hubert Culot, Rob Barnett1, and Rob Barnett2

Here Dutton replicate that coupling with Bainton’s string quartet pre-dating his move to Australia in 1934 and Clifford’s written after he had moved to the UK in 1930 to study with RVW. He was later to become Alexander Korda’s music director and work with the wartime BBC. There is a certain symmetry in their works being paired. One was born in Australia and came to live in the UK while the other was born in the UK and emigrated to Australia.

Bainton’s story is well documented on this site. His delightful and extremely beautiful A major quartet was written in Ruhleben camp outside Berlin. This was after he had been interned there when he had the misfortune to be in Germany after war had been declared. This lucidly scored work is full of light and passion and is most transparently scored in the style of Ravel. The subject matter and treatment is handled with wonderful down-light mastery. The euphoric contains an unequivocal reminiscence of Schumann’s Rhenish first movement surging main theme. This is to return in various forms in the third and fourth movements. This deserves to stand alongside the chamber works of Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells.

The name of Herbert Howells from his Piano Quartet, Clarinet Quintet and String Quartet In Gloucestershire came to me again with Clifford’s 1935 quartet. This is once again delightful music-making with themes lapping, gurgling and flowing with pleasing fluency. Only in the scherzo do we encounter a shadow of folk-dance twee. The killing excesses of smocks and preciosity are held at bay with a propulsive Moeran-like treatment at times while at others Clifford adopts the manner of Grainger. Lilting tender melancholy can be heard in the Lento introduction to the finale but this resolves into folksy energy.

Here are two lyrical English quartets which carry none of the equivocal harmony or expressionism of Goossens or Bridge. Definitely for enthusiasts of the chamber music of Howells, Vaughan Williams, McEwen and Moeran and further afield of Ravel, Max d’Ollonne and Ropartz. The Locrian play these works with every appearance of total engagement and enjoyment. Not to be missed.

Rob Barnett

see also
The Edgar Bainton Society



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