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Boyle • Ireland • Moeran • Vaughan Williams: String Quartets etc

Piatti Quartet (Rubicon)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Boyle • Ireland • Moeran • Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams: Household Music; Ina Boyle: String Quartet in E minor; Ireland: The Holy Boy; Moeran: String Quartet No. 2
Piatti Quartet
Rubicon RCD1098   54:24 mins


The booklet’s cover painting – four panels of abstract swirls – might be by an Irish painter (Mainie Jellett), but it scarcely reflects the conservative slant of this album’s delightful and touching programme of chamber music sourced from every part of the British Isles except Scotland.

From Ireland itself comes the slightly reticent but gripping String Quartet of 1934 by the gifted and newly rediscovered Ina Boyle (1889-1967), though you get more Irish colouring in the folksy melodies pleasurably packed into the last half of Moeran’s E flat String Quartet (its date the subject of speculation), found among his manuscripts after his death. Wales’s contribution lies in the three hymn tunes splendidly mulled over in Household Music by Vaughan Williams – a teacher of Boyle’s –written in the early 1940s with amateur players in mind (though written for string quartet, the parts may be played by any instrument available). Slipped in between, the second English contribution, John Ireland’s sweetly yearning The Holy Boy, arranged for quartet, solely derives from the composer’s own inner world.

The Piatti Quartet brings to this repertoire a passion, sympathy and a carefully balanced ensemble sense guaranteed to make each of the composers shine. The Moeran may have its structural idiosyncrasies, but the final movement’s folksong pot-pourri still proves irresistible. More ambitious than their trappings suggest, Vaughan Williams’s three ingenious hymn tune preludes offer fantasia musings, a brisk scherzo and a compelling set of variations.

But Boyle’s String Quartet in its premiere recording fascinates the most, with its mix of lean textures, carefully wrought argument and moments of lyrical magic from a soaring violin flying high over fluttering notes below.


Geoff Brown