‘This release deserves a warm welcome' International Record Review
‘...those indispensable pillars of British musical life, the Chilingirian Quartet' The Times
‘...the inevitable stars were the Chilingirian Quartet...they remain giants in their field.' The Independent
Sir Lennox Berkeley developed a musical language of restrained and rational conversation which lends itself well to chamber music, for which he composed a great deal. The String Quartet No. 2, which here receives its premiere recording, was a wartime piece, first performed in London in 1941. It had been composed the previous year whilst Berkeley was staying at the home of the writer Jack Davenport in the Cotswolds. The composer described the new string quartet as influenced by the French music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in its clarity, order, and subtle emotional climate and projected, in his own words, ‘a certain type of harmony... that one finds later in the music of Poulenc in particular'.
Although his musical language is very different from his father's in some respects, including a greater reliance on strong dramatic gestures and sharp contrasts, Michael Berkeley too has found chamber music a congenial medium. His catalogue includes five works for string quartet, two with numbers followed by a Quartet Study for a competition, Magnetic Field and Torque and Velocity - each in a single movement, one of his abiding formal preoccupations. Magnetic Field was written in 1995, the tercentenary of the death of Henry Purcell, and Michael Berkeley says that the starting point for his work was Purcell's string music, and in particular the Fantasia upon One Note, in which one instrument reiterates a single note throughout. However, his idea was to use a single note as ‘a kind of magnetic force around which everything else revolves'. Abstract Mirror was commissioned by the Chilingirian Quartet and first performed by them with the cellist Stephen Orton in February 2003. In it, the composer realised a long-held ambition to write a string quintet with two cellos, as in Schubert's late masterpiece. The work is again in a single movement, without hard-edged divisions into sections.