2012, Music

String Quartets Nos. 1-4 (2012) by Michael Tippett, performed by the Britten Quartet

This is certainly my king of music. I do prefer it a little more out there, but this is still pretty great stuff.


String Quartet No. 1 “To Wilfred Franks” (1935) [Revised 1943]

The first quartet is less radical than some of the most impressive quartets of this era, but is very, very pretty. Though I am inclined to dock marks for it being more conventional than, say Bartok or Carter (who wrote way later anyway), it’s such a pleasing composition that I don’t think I will.

  1. Allegro Appassionato 6:35
  2. Lento Cantabile 2:33
  3. Allegro Assai 4:33

String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp “To Walter Bergmann” (1942)

I wrote this when I first heard it:

“Tippett’s second quartet is very nice, but hardly life-changing. I prefer his first and, if memory serves, the later ones.”

I generally agree with that assessment. It’s the least of the first four.

  1. Allegro Grazioso 6:30
  2. Andante 4:24
  3. Presto 3:05
  4. Allegro Appassionato 5:33

String Quartet No. 3 “To Mrs Mary Behrend” (1946)

Two me, there’s a clear break between the first two quartets and this quartet. The early quartets are significantly “smoother” for lack of a better word. (I don’t know how to express this using musical language.) Here it’s all staccato (well, a lot of the time) and aggressive.

I like it significantly more than the second.

  1. Grave E Sostenuto 7:59
  2. Andante 7:33
  3. Allegro Molto E Con Brio 3:27
  4. Lento 7:15

String Quartet No. 4 “To Michael Tillett, colleague and friend (1978)

Much like the third quartet differs from the first two, does the fourth differ from the third: its first movement is almost Elliott Carter-esque. (Eell, it’s not that insane, but it’s much more out there than normal Tippett.)

I really like this piece a lot, but it does also feel like Tippett is a little late to the party here. Others have explored this territory first. Though Tippett does it very well.

  1. Molto Legato 3:40
  2. Fast 7:30
  3. Moderately Slow 6:45
  4. Very Fast

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