Britten, Bliss, Delius and Purcell "Works for String Quartet"

Following their selection by the European Concert Halls Organisation (ECHO) as the UK Concert Halls’ nominated ‘Rising Stars’ 2009, the Barbirolli Quartet has toured the major concert halls of Europe, and holds an international reputation for its diverse, prolific repertoire and dynamic approach to performance.

The Times has described them as “forthright, full-blooded musicians, afraid of nothing” and The Strad hailed their “superbly realised performance” and “precision of ensemble at formidable rates of energy”. The quartet performs at major venues throught the UK which as the Wigmore Hall, the Purcell room, Kings Place, St. David’s Hall, Cardiff and Bridgewater Hall.

Through the support of the Royal Over-Seas League they toured Singapore, New Zealand and Australia in 2009, giving concerts and adjudicating the Pettman/ROSL Arts International Scholarship.

Formed in 2003 at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the quartets has also undertaken a chamber Music fellowship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and a Leverhulme Chamber Music fellowship at the Royal Academy of Music. For this recording they were kindly loaned a set of fine Italian instruments from the Royal Academy, comprising of two Guadagnini violins, a Ceruti Viola and the 1692 ‘Segelman’ Stradivarius cello.



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“It is strange that Arthur Bliss’s two string quartets are so seldom performed, since the Second in particular is a highly charged and dramatic four-movement score that bursts forth with considerable vigour. It ideally suits the Barbirolli Quartet, a much-acclaimed young British ensemble that bristles with energy and technical brilliance. The players’ account of the scherzo dashes around the instruments with enviable precision before relaxing nicely into the following slow movement. They are equally persuasive in capturing the vastly changing moods of the finale, and the whole performance stands favourable comparison with the Delmé Quartet (Hyperion). The Barbirolli enters a much more competitive world with the Britten quartet, with a catalogue already including highly recommended recordings from the Belcea, Brodsky and Maggini quartets. I like the Barbirolli’s mysterious opening, yet the movement would benefit from some of the more intuitive dynamic shading of the Maggini (Naxos). That comment could apply to all three movements, indeed, and while the Barbirolli’s playing is full of drive and spontaneity with highly impressive, colourful brush strokes, it is a little short on subtle hues. The slow movement from Delius’s Late Swallows reveals intonation that is not perfectly centred, and Britten’s arrangement of Purcell’s Chacony adds very little. A resonant recording that still retains clarity.” David Denton, The Strad

"This is a well balanced programme of British works for string quartet. The Bliss and Britten quartets are joined by the latter’s realisation of Purcell’s Chacony and a single movement, the most popular, from Delius’s String Quartet. The Barbirolli Quartet lives up to its name in terms of commitment and expression... Full marks for this attractive compilation." Jonathan Woolf,

“The Barbirollis give warm, idiomatic, intense performances of both works [Britten no. 2 and Bliss no. 2], at times reflecting the comment of one critic in a review who described their playing as “red-blooded”. The superb Purcell Chacony in G minor makes the perfect pendant to the Britten, while Delius’s Late Swallows (1922) rounds the disc off charmingly. A very welcome issue.” Edward Greenfield - Gramophone May 2012

I am highly satisfied with this interpretation of Bliss’s demanding Second String Quartet by the Barbirolli and I wouldn’t look elsewhere for another account. I have fine accounts of the Bliss Second String Quartet played by the Griller Quartet, Delmé String Quartet and the Maggini Quartet but this insightful recording from the Barbirolli is outstanding and takes centre-stage. The rapid progress of the Barbirolli has been remarkable. Their impeccable preparation and stylish unison certainly pays dividends in this fine recording of English music for Nimbus Alliance. I hope it isn’t too long before I see the Barbirolli Quartet again in recital.    Michael Cookson,

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