Alfred Hill: String Quartets, Vol. 3by Dominion Quartet
Decidedly the only significant Romantic-era composer to emerge from Australia, Alfred Hill seemed to try to make up for the lack of fellow countrymen by producing a staggering collection of more than 2,000 works. Of these, 17 string quartets spanned nearly the entire length of Hill's protracted career. Though they very easily could have slipped into oblivion, the New Zealand-based Dominion String Quartet has taken up the project to record all 17 of the quartets on the Naxos label. While Vol. 1 focused on the earlier quartets that had the unique characteristic of incorporating Maori folk elements into his music (following the lead of Dvorák and other Nationalistic composers), the present installment, Vol. 3, seems more based on Hill's interest in mimicking the styles of other composers, particularly the Impressionists. These three quartets are every bit as thoughtfully and skillfully composed as the earlier quartets, but lack the same sense of originality, making them accessible and enjoyable but somewhat bland and lacking in depth. For its part, the Dominion Quartet puts its best foot forward in its efforts to bring life to Hill's works. The playing is well-refined, nicely balanced, and clearly articulated. The warm, homogenous sound and Naxos' fine recording of it makes for another pleasurable installment.
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