This was first issued in 2002 as part of Meridian's 25th anniversary.
This sensibly coupled disc includes the intensely lyrical yet
unrelentingly angst-ridden First Quartet. Its allegedly Bartók-influenced
successor is a BBC commission. After a bristlingly driven
first movement comes a trudging Marcia lenta
- a slow
movement cortege with overtones of Shostakovich. The third of
the four movements is just as driven but not as thrawn as the
first. By contrast the eight minute long finale is designated Epilogo
- Molto lento
. It provides a pensive summing up in which
the sweetly lyrical voice has a touch of innocence. The parallels
here are with RVW and Rózsa and the music is ‘sung’ with
grace and confidence and ends in a distressed twilight. Only
seven years later and Leighton's language has become dissonant.
His Seven Variations
comprise six short and moody fragments
including a wonderfully skeletal pizzicato Allegro molto
The Variations end with a long Adagio e sostenuto
heightens tension and dismay. The hard-won lyrical but shadow-hung
heart of the piece sings out at 4:12 in a way that suggests that
would have been a fitting close to a full-scale
The disc has somewhat technical notes by the composer, the late
Edward Harper, and a very personal eulogy from James MacMillan
who had been one of Leighton's counterpoint and orchestration
This is one of a pair of Leighton CDs on Meridian. CDE 84465
valuably contributes the Edinburgh Quartet and Robert Markham
in Leighton's Piano Trio, Piano Quartet and Piano Quintet. These
are premiere recordings as are those on the present disc.
In all the attention quite aptly concentrated on the Chandos
Leighton orchestral series these two discs must not be overlooked.
These are impassioned performances of works steeped in a synthesis
of angst and melody.