Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Benjamin Britten: String Quartets on EMI - Belcea Quartet

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) CD 1 String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (1941) String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, Op 36 (1945) CD 2 String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94 (1975) Three Divertimenti for String Quartet (1936)
Belcea Quartet (Corina Belcea (violin); Laura Samuel (violin); Krzystof Chorzelski (viola); Alasdair Tait (cello)). EMI CLASSICS 2285182

Over the Christmas period I had the pleasure of reviewing this excellent re-release of the Belcea Quartet’s account of the great cycle of Benjamin Britten’s String Quartets.
For enthusiasts of Britten’s music in particular and English music in general this is an important and exciting event and I was privileged “to have this spectacular release in my collection.”

Michael Cookson has written an extensive essay and comparison of these quartets for MusicWeb International and my review did not attempt to compete with this essential reading! I agreed with Michael’s statement that there are “so many excellent accounts of his [Britten’s] String Quartets available…” that it could be a hard choice for the a person approaching these works for the first time.
I considered the disparity between numbers of recordings- “The Arkiv CD database notes some eleven or twelve recordings of the Second and Third Quartets, whereas the First has only five”.
Furthermore, I agreed with him that few listeners would be disappointed with the three main contenders for attention –the Maggini, the Sorrel or the Belcea versions. Naturally, I was forced to come down on one side and state my preference – I suggested that “I would not like to be forced to choose one single version for my library – I believe that all three bring important insights. I guess that if the chips were down it would be the Belcea CDs for the overall interpretation. However, the Sorrel version (on Chandos would be my choice for ‘value for money’ –as they had the two un-numbered Quartets from 1928 and 1931 and the Alla Marcia as additional material.

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International

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