Benjamin Britten, born 22 November 1913, and being celebrated throughout 2013, was the most prolific and celebrated English composer of the mid-20th century. He was an outstanding pianist and conductor and performed with many of the most famous Classical musicians of the time. Britten shot to international fame with his operas which are considered the finest English operas since those of Henry Purcell in the 17th century. He also composed three string quartets which have been a speciality of the Endellion String Quartet for nearly thirty years. The recordings on these two CDs were made as recently as late July this year in the Wyastone Concert Hall near Monmouth in South Wales.
From the CD booklet notes written by David Matthews (© David Matthews), a well-known composer in his own right and a lifelong friend, onetime assistant, and author of a highly regarded biography of Benjamin Britten:
“Britten began writing string quartets as a boy, and soon achieved a high degree of competence. ... Before he left the College, Britten had begun work on a large-scale suite for string quartet called Alla quartetto serioso, ... Three Divertimenti.
“The first of Britten’s three numbered string quartets was composed in California in 1941 to a commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. It is a work that shows full knowledge of the Classical tradition and demonstrates a highly sophisticated handling of sonata form and tonality. ...
“If the youthful confidence and desire to impress demonstrated in the First Quartet recall Beethoven’s op.18 quartets, the Second Quartet is Britten’s “Rasumovsky”. It was composed in 1945, only four years after the first, but with the intervening experience of Grimes Britten had grown to full maturity. ... it is much to be regretted that Britten wrote no more quartets for thirty years. In conversation with Hans Keller, the Austrian émigré musician who had been writing with acute psychological penetration on Britten’s music since the 1940s, Britten had promised: “One day, I’ll write a string quartet for you.” When he finally did so, it was to be almost his last completed work: he wrote his Third Quartet in 1975, the culmination of the music he composed after his debilitating heart operation.”
Benjamin Britten 1913–1976
CD 1 53’15”
String Quartet No.1 in D major, op.25 25’48”
String Quartet No.2 in C major, op.36 27’26”
CD 2 35.30
String Quartet No.3, op.94 25’35”
Three Divertimenti 9’53”
The Endellion String Quartet:
Andrew Watkinson violin I · Ralph de Souza violin II
Garfield Jackson viola · David Waterman cello