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CHAN 10182
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CHAN 10182

McEwen: String Quartets, Vol. 3

The Classical Shop
release date: March 2004

Originally recorded in 2003


Chilingirian Quartet


Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk


Rachel Smith


Jonathan Cooper

Michael Common


Record Label


String Quartet


Total Time - 60:15
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Select Complete Single Disc for
  premiere recordings  

String Quartet No. 8 (1918)

  in E flat major - in Es-Dur - en mi bémol majeur  
  To Philip L. Agnew  
1 I Allegro piacevole 4:25
2 II Larghetto 4:55
3 III Allegretto 4:53

String Quartet No. 2 (1898)

  in A minor - in a-Moll - en la mineur  
4 I Allegro marcato - Presto - Tempo I 10:06
5 II Andante quasi adagio - Poco più mosso - 8:04
6 III Vivace - Molto meno mosso - Vivace 4:02
7 IV Finale. Allegro vivace - Poco meno mosso - 7:13

A Little Quartet 'in modo scotico', No. 15 (1936)

  To my friend R.C. Wyse  
8 I Allegro giocoso - Molto tranquillo e legato - 4:19
9 II Adagio piacevole molto tranquillo - 4:59
10 III Vivace. Reel time - Lento - 7:19
This is the third volume of McEwen’s String Quartets on Chandos.The first two in the series received excellent critical acclaim.

None of the works on this disc has been recorded before.

McEwen’s music is characterised by the folk traditions and landscapes of the composer’s native Scotland but infused with colours of French impressionism. It is highly melodic and attractive, and possesses an undeniably haunting quality. During his lifetime McEwen was principally known as a composer of string quartets and can be considered the foremost British practitioner of the genre.

The Chilingirian Quartet is one of today’s most renowned quartets. Its large discography on Chandos includes acclaimed interpretations of chamber music by Haydn and Dvorák.

McEwen’s nineteen string quartets provide the core of his compositional output, from the trailblazing works such as Quartets Nos 2 and 4, to the distilled style of his last, No. 17.

Written in 1898 and published in 1903, the Quartet No. 2 in A minor received its first performance at a private concert by the Wessely Quartet in London in 1900. Gilbert Webb of The Standard spoke with high praise of this ‘interesting and scholarly composition’ in which he recognised those themes ‘possessing character expressed in Scottish musical idiom and treated with pronounced skill’.

‘A Little Quartet’ in modo scotico was composed in Cannes in 1936. It is remarkable for its extraordinary, effervescent finale which has the cello playing snappy reels and accompaniments. In the final pages the music is driven almost to breaking point. The extreme vivacity and amazing challenges posed both rhythmically and melodically were probably the reason that there appears to have been no public performance of this work during McEwen’s lifetime.

Quartet No. 8 in E flat major is a very compact and experimental work, written in 1918 and first performed in London by the Virtuoso Quartet nine years later. It contains a wistful opening movement with a chromatic progression of harmonies. Its gently yodelling finale unexpectedly develops into music of real scherzo character – scurrying soft triplets with sharp accents are reminiscent of French music of this era.

The third instalment of the Chilingirian Quartets survey of the voluminous quartet output of JB McEwen confirms the impressions generated by Vols 1 and 2 - the Scottish head of the Royal Academy of Music was in no sense an academic composer but a sensitive, inventive and quietly innovative master of his genre.
BBC Music Magazine

CHAN 10182 follows two other McEwen quartet discs by the excellent Chilingirian Quartet: they sink themselves into McEwens idiom the way others might sink themselves into a foam-filled bath. And with equally pleasurable results.

From the French flavours of No. 8 to the Scottish stylings of No. 15, this is interwar British music at its very best: breathing native tradition but fully aware of Continental developments' beautifully played by the Chilingirians.

Inquisitive collectors can rest assured that these are tidy, beautifully shaped performances, immaculately recorded at Snape Maltings. A delightful release in every way

From the French flavours of No. 8 to the Scottish stylings of No. 15, this is interwar British music at its very best: breathing native tradition but fully aware of Continental developments' beautifully played by the Chilingirians.

'The Chilingirians perform with great polish and symphathy. The Chandos recording is bright and clean. Good notes help make this an attractive issue for anyone who is willing to venture off the beaten track.'
American Record Guide

'The series is a credit to Chandos.'
The Strad

J Harmsworth