WALTON String Quartets
– The Telegraph
Hats off first for the stunning recording. Every bow stroke hits home as if the players are there in your living room. Another bouquet for the musicians’ mastery of the three Ps: polish, passion, precision. Absorbing repertoire, too. Walton’s A-minor Quartet of the 1940s bristles with nervous energy, but has a feeling heart as well. In support is the uncut original version of his self-consciously Modernist earky quartet: a sprawling opic of chromatic writhings and Beethovenian ambition. Fascinating, and the Dorics give it their all.
The Times – March 5th 2011
Exhilaratingly, dedicated performances from a talented young string quartet
The coupling’s been done before – both the Gabrieli (Chandos, 10/91) and the Emperor (Black Box, 8/01) hit upon the same idea – but the Doric are the first to offer Walton’s extraordinarily ambitious String Quartet of 1919 22 without the cuts made by the composer following the work’s first two performances during the summer of 1923 by the McCullagh Quartet in London and (a month later) at the inaugural ISCM Festival in Salzburg. Osbert Sitwell was in attendance for the latter event and recalled how the cellist inadvertently got her spike caught in the controls of the trap-door and disappeared into the stage: “The audience rocked. And even she ‘came up smiling’…Poor things.”
Following the public premiere, that same year, of the first version of Façade, Walton promptly withdrew the piece and later, in a 1963 interview, described it as “full of undigested Bartók and Schoenberg”. There are three linked movements: once past the somewhat turgid opening Moderato, both the central Scherzo and extended concluding Fugue (which pays unabashed homage to Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge) are never less than gripping in their prodigal energy levels, modernist daring and contrapuntal ingenuity – at least, that’s what comes over in this blazingly committed and triumphantly assured rendering by the Doric Quartet.
Their account of the mature A minor Quartet (1944 47) is more impressive still, displaying an exquisite blend, rhythmic acuity and razor-sharp precision that even put me in mind of the Hollywood Quartet’s matchless world premiere recording on Testament (3/95). I was particularly smitten with the Dorics’ glowing treatment of the rapturous slow movement (surely one of Walton’s most deeply personal inspirations), which they survey with a beguiling, almost conversational flow yet no loss of intimacy or piercing ardour.
As for production values, I’m able to report that Jonathan Cooper’s sound and balance are beyond reproach. Anthony Burton supplies a characteristically lucid booklet essay. Make no mistake, this is a terrific disc in every way, a worthy follow-up to this ensemble’s exemplary anthology of the three Korngold quartets (Chandos, 11/10).
Gramophone – May 2011
The Doric gives outstanding, virtuoso performances of William Walton’s two string quartets. The first of them, formidable in its technical demands and harmonic language, is virtually unrecognisable from the Walton of maturity, embracing as it does the avant-garde ideas he flirted with in his youth. Walton said it was “full of undigested Bartók and Schoenberg”, but, when played with such panache, it provides a pungent contrast to the clarity and spry rhythmic sparring of the later A minor Quartet.
The Telegraph – February 25th 2011