- String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94
- String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36
- String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 25
- Divertimenti (3), for string quartet
This double album joins a pair of releases by the Brodsky Quartet, both recorded in 2001. This ensemble is second to none when it comes to abstract quartet repertory of the 20th century, and there's really little to complain of here other than the misleading title. Early in his career, Britten wrote five other pieces for string quartet, including two titled as string quartets, in addition to the four works recorded here, and the "Three Divertimenti," which are included, had a troubled history. That said, the Brodsky's performances are consistently strong, and Challenge Classics' engineering work in Suffolk's Snape Maltings Concert Hall has held up well after 15 years. The Brodsky's forte is perhaps the sober contrapuntal work in the death-haunted "String Quartet No. 3" of 1975, with its magnificent final chaconne swan song. But they also excel in movements where Britten the dramatist is putting his 1940s operatic breakthroughs into a chamber music context. Sample the magical first movement of the "String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 25," with its points-of-light texture that places considerable demands on the performers. Those are met throughout, and this is both a sympathetic and steely-accurate reading of Britten's major works in the string quartet medium.