International Record Review: outstanding.
Benjamin Britten always enjoyed performing with small ensembles - he played the viola as well as the piano - and his natural facility in writing for strings was evident from a very early age. The programme on this disc contains several examples of those early works, including a world première recording of his Miniature Suite, composed at the age of 16. The disc opens with String Quartet No.2, however, the most ambitious of Britten's three mature quartets. Composed in 1945, a few months after the première of the opera Peter Grimes, this work was part of a commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Henry Purcell's death. Nevertheless, the connection with Purcell is only explicit in the third movement, called Chacony, and even this movement is based on a theme whose character is very personal to Britten himself. In this first part of a survey of Britten's works for string quartet, the internationally acclaimed Emperor Quartet performs the music of their compatriot. The quartet's first release on BIS was a disc with music by James MacMillan, which earned it high praise, for instance in the French magazine Répertoire: 'The ultra-sensitive interpretation reveals a spectacular virtuosity and perfection, with an uncompromising explosiveness'. A warm welcome also met the following disc of Martinu quartets, accorded a 'Stern des Monats' in the German magazine Fono Forum, and chosen as a selected recording in Strad Magazine, with the following praise: 'The Emperor Quartet produces playing of scorching insight and commitment.'
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