Bliss: String Quartet No. 1, etc.

Bliss: String Quartet No. 1, etc.

by Maggini Quartet
     
 

The first generation of modern English composers (Stanford, Parry, and Elgar) were influenced primarily by 19th-century German masters (above all Brahms and Wagner), while the succeeding group (Vaughan Williams, Bax, and Bliss) looked more toward contemporary French music (Debussy and Ravel) for inspiration. Bliss's String Quartet No. 1 (1941) is an unequivocally… See more details below

Overview

The first generation of modern English composers (Stanford, Parry, and Elgar) were influenced primarily by 19th-century German masters (above all Brahms and Wagner), while the succeeding group (Vaughan Williams, Bax, and Bliss) looked more toward contemporary French music (Debussy and Ravel) for inspiration. Bliss's String Quartet No. 1 (1941) is an unequivocally English work in its character, though there are notable Impressionist elements, particularly in the opening movement. Oddly, perhaps, the music seems to gather harmonic bite as it progresses, and one may detect hints of, say, Bartók at the end of the second movement and again in the finale. Bliss is very much his own man, however, and even in the spiciest passages of the quartet, a warm, open-hearted lyricism prevails. The Quartet in A Major was composed three decades earlier (1914), and here the influence of Elgar is stronger -- though again the transparency of the four-part texture points to French models, even if its melodic sweetness is pure Bliss. Why the composer decided to withdraw this delectable work is difficult to understand, as it's finely wrought and full of fresh inspiration. In between these two neglected gems comes a work for flute, oboe, and string trio titled Conversations (1920). Bliss was in Paris after the First World War, and his exposure to the witty, rhythmically playful music of Milhaud and the group of French composers known as Les Six can be heard in these picturesque miniatures. The Maggini Quartet, who have recorded so many little-known British chamber works over the past few years, give yet another set of superb performances here, richly recorded by Naxos' engineers.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
There are now, as there have always been, very, very few recordings of the chamber music of Arthur Bliss. This is not for want of quality: Bliss was a supremely skilled composer whose works had a large international audience between the two world wars and whose chamber works are as brilliant and moving as the chamber works of Elgar, Walton, or Vaughan Williams. But as with so much brilliant and moving music, there is only so much room for great music on the shelves of record collectors, and Bliss has been pushed off the shelf by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. This is a shame because this disc of chamber music by Bliss is as lovely and affecting as any disc released around the same time. Bliss' "Quartet in B flat" is as beautiful a quartet as was composed in the '20s, with fluent writing and a heart-rending Sostenuto slow movement, his "Conversations for winds and strings" is sprightly and touching, and his early "Quartet in A major" is energetic and enthusiastic with a graceful closing Allegro vivace. The performances by England's Maggini Quartet, along with wind players Nicholas Daniel and Michael Cox, are dedicated and completely convincing. Naxos' sound is as warm and clear as the best major-label productions. Anyone who likes English music of the early twentieth century or who simply likes great chamber music recordings would like this wonderful disc.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/19/2002
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313210824
Rank:
290199

Tracks

  1. String Quartet No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 60, F. 25  - Arthur Bliss  -  Maggini Quartet  - Edward Bently
  2. Conversations, for woodwinds & strings, Op. 15, F. 16  - Arthur Bliss  - Michael Cox  - Nicholas Daniel  -  Maggini Quartet  - Edward Bently
  3. String Quartet in A major, Op. 4, F. 23  - Arthur Bliss  -  Maggini Quartet  - Edward Bently

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