- Theme and Variations for Two Violins
- String quartet No 1 (Theme and Variations)
- String quartet No 2
- String quartet No 3
When American classical music lovers think of twentieth century English music, what composers do they think of? Elgar? Certainly. Holst? Surely. Vaughan Williams? Probably. Britten? Possibly. Walton? Maybe. Arnold? Unlikely. Alwyn? Less likely. And Alan Rawsthorne? Highly unlikely. Why? Because Rawsthorne's music is rarely performed and recorded. Why? Because Rawsthorne might be best characterized as a less interesting Hindemith. The same lean, linear textures, the same astringent tonal harmonies, the same close attention to detail and design -- these qualities are no less present in Rawsthorne's music than they are in Hindemith's, but more in the manner of the less extravagant and more circumspect later Hindemith than the less restrained and more interesting earlier Hindemith. In this 2006 Naxos recording by the England's Maggini Quartet, Rawsthorne's three string quartets are given more than convincing if less than compelling performances. The Maggini is as clearly up to the music's technical requirements as it is up for its expressive demands. In works coming from 1939, 1954, and 1965, the Maggini adopts admirably to Rawsthorne's slow evolution from the edgy "First" to the nervous "Second" to the anxious "Third." But if the performances succeed in convincing the listener of the music's intelligence and integrity, they still fail in compelling any attention. One gets the sense of listening to an earnest argument between four extremely articulate individuals on a profoundly abstruse topic; and, unfortunately, sooner or later, with the best will in the world, each of Rawsthorne's quartet's grows tiresome. Naxos' sound is too close, but very vivid.