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James Friskin Chamber Music



JAMES FRISKIN was born in Glasgow on the 3rd of March 1886. His early musical talent as pianist and composer resulted in a piano scholarship to the Royal College of Music at the age of only fourteen. Five years of piano study with Edward Dannreuther followed; then in 1905 he was awarded a scholarship to study composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, the outstanding composition professor of the day. In 1914 he emigrated to the USA. Based in New York, he taught at the Institute of Musical Arts. Later he was an original faculty member of the Juilliard Graduate School, where he taught until his death.

THE RASUMOVSKY QUARTET Friendships over many years preceded the formation of the Rasumovsky Quartet in 1984. Shared membership of such ensembles as the Music Group of London, the Julian Bream Consort and the Zorian and Amici Quartets has given the Quartet an unusual depth of experience. Audiences in Britain and abroad have warmed to the variety of programmes, mature interpretation and enthusiasm which characterise the Quartet's music making. The Quartet derives its name from Count Rasumovsky, the Imperial Russian ambassador in Vienna for thirty years - now remembered primarily as the dedicatee of Beethoven's superb set of Quartets op.59.

James Friskin Chamber Music


Thomas Dunhill described the Quintet in C minor as ‘one of the most brilliant Opus Ones in existence’. This sweeping, romantic work exploits the full range of possibilities offered by this chamber grouping. The ‘scherzo’ is a strong movement that is full of energy and interest. This truly gorgeous music paints a picture of Scotland in the listener’s mind seldom achieved by any composer of Scottish or any other nationality. The final movement is a treasure. There is much excitement with contrasting reflective episodes to keep the listener’s attention from the first bar to the last. The optimistic concluding coda is hugely impressive.

The Phantas(y)[ie] for String Quartet opens with a ‘jaunty’ theme, which declares ‘youthful high spirits’. The Presto section is full of humour and wit and reveals superb craftsmanship at every turn. Of all the pieces on this CD this is the one that attracted me most. A well-crafted, musically interesting work that is at times moving and always enjoyable.

The beautiful Elegy for viola and piano (1912) is well-wrought. There is passion; there is violence and a number of tentative explorations that never resolve. This Elegy is meditative, reflective and ultimately beautiful: it ought to be in the repertoire of all violists. The final work on this CD is the Phantasy (1910) for Piano Quintet. The heart of this work is the central ‘poco adagio’ which is at times heart-rendingly beautiful. This big passionate music occasionally reverts to a quieter, more tranquil mood. However the intensity returns before leading to a gloriously expansive and finally optimistic coda. It is a work that will surely move the listener, as the composer marks out his musical journey.

James Friskin is a worthy and often inspired voice that demands to be heard as a part of the re-evaluation of the so-called English (British) Musical Renaissance.- John France,