The main attraction on this recording of rare material, in my opinion, is the admirable String Quartet by John Veale (1922-2006). A composer who studied under Egon Wellesz, Roger Sessions and Roy Harris, but who decidedly avoided the avant-garde movement and stuck to the more traditional tonal style of Walton or Britten for example. The quartet sets off with an outcry on all four instruments in unison, sounding like an ancient and distant lament in search of an answer. That answer comes in the form of highly contrasting rhythmic activity in the second subject, which gives the opening movement its forward momentum. The core of the work is the wonderful Lento central movement, based on a haunting four-note motif pregnant with possibilities. John Veale’s unerring sense of direction manipulates that motif in many ways but never loses sight of its melancholy and sad nature, and delivers a touching and well conceived slow movement. The final Allegro takes off in a different direction, but eventually revisits the opening movement’s lament and the four-note motif and sums everything up very nicely. This is another solid string quartet that has been ignored for over 50 years.
His Triptych for Recorder and String Quartet was originally written for recorder and guitar, but eventually transcribed and first performed as a chamber work in 2003. Like myself, many of you might think that the combination of recorder and strings is not a good match, but it actually works very well. The blend adds an element of melancholy to the sound that, based on the work’s overall atmosphere, can convey those emotions quite convincingly.
The music of Robert Crawford (1925-), who studied under Hans Gál and Benjamin Frankel, is a bit more angular and forward looking in its layout, which serves as a good foil to Veale’s more traditional views. The three works present on this CD well exploit the chamber music idiom. This composer’s focus has always been on chamber music, and as a matter of fact, he is now, at the age of 85, working on the completion of his fourth string quartet.
The Adderbury Ensemble, John Turner and Linda Merrick all come across with conviction, and perform this new music with the same dedication awarded the core repertoire. Their emotional perceptions behind the works, serve the music very well. Métier , a division of Divine Art records, has done us all a great service by dusting off and drawing our attention to these unfairly overlooked works by two neglected, though otherwise solid composers.