Delius, Smyth String Quartets

Delius, Smyth String Quartets

8.574376 (Naxos Records, CD)

FIRST RELEASE (14 October 2022)

Playing time: 65'31"
Tracks: 8
Booklet pages: 4
℗ 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd
© 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd
Main country of recording: United Kingdom
Country of manufacture: Germany
Reviewer: Geoff Pearce
Review of Delius, Smyth String Quartets published on 27 October 2022

Villiers Quartet:
Katie Stillman, violin
Tamaki Higashi, violin
Carmen Flores, viola
Leo Melvin, cello

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944):

String Quartet in E minor (1902, revised 1912)
1 Allegretto lirico
2 Allegro molto leggiero
3 Andante
4 Allegro energico

Frederick Delius (1862-1934), first two movements reconstructed in 2021 by Daniel M Grimley (born 1973):

String Quartet in C minor (1888)
5 Allegro assai (first recording)
6 Allegro vivace (first recording)
7 Adagio, con molta espressione
8 Finale: Agitato, allegro

This album is the first recording of the complete 1888 Delius String Quartet, following the quartet's previous Naxos release of the original 1916 Delius String Quartet where it was coupled with the Elgar Quartet.

The String Quartet in E minor by Ethel Smyth, one of the most innovative and original figures in English music, has a masterful coherence and consistency. With eloquent writing for the viola in particular, it is both playful and reverential, and ends with a flourish – forthright, bold and uncompromising, like Smyth herself.

Delius wrote the early String Quartet in 1888 but it was rejected for performance and he was later to reuse the Scherzo for his mature Quartet of 1916–19 (8.573586). In 2018 the score of the two opening movements of the 1888 Quartet, long assumed lost, reappeared at auction and have been edited and reunited with the final two in this first recording, which adds significantly to our understanding of Delius' early compositional directions. The Villiers Quartet is one of the most recognised quartets in the UK for the performance of British music, releasing acclaimed recordings of works by Elgar, Delius, Fricker, Alwyn, William Sterndale Bennett, David Matthews and Kuljit Bhamra. In 2020 the quartet gave the first performance of the 1888 Delius String Quartet, featuring movements from original versions uncovered by Professor Daniel Grimley from Oxford University. The broad curiosity of the Villiers Quartet and its passion for teaching and performing have made the ensemble a valuable resource for students and audiences alike. Inspiration comes from the heart of the Villiers Quartet's philosophy: to believe in the art of string quartet.

Recorded 14-16 March 2022 at Ayriel Studios, North Yorkshire, UK.