I was excited to unearth and import this ultra-rare CBC Enterprises disc today; the last time I knew where it was and thus able to play it, I was living with my parents. Yep. This disc focuses on works for string quartet and string orchestra, one of my favorite spine tingling, tear duct-activating and timeless combinations. Here we get two of the "major players" as far as the repertoire goes, by a composer right at the height of his powers (Elgar) and another whose genius was still blossoming yet
the emotional impact and power of his work was overwhelming (Vaughan Williams). Sharing the 'ticket' are two unknown works for the same forces by two Canadian composers, Alexander Brott and Pierre Mercure. "Ritual" by Alexander Brott is similar in it's feeling and modality to the great "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" of RVW, although one cannot compare the two as really nothing out there can hold a candle to the Vaughan Williams. Brott's work however is quite beautiful and imo is worthy of a place in the repertoire for string quartet with string orchestra. It's doubtful that will ever happen, but at least I have it to share :)
Here is a photo of the actual cd release, although if my copy (even the jewel case!) looked this worn
out I would be miserable: Collectors will understand!
Alexander Brott wrote "Ritual" for Solo Quartet and String Orchestra in 1942 and over time regarded it as a product of his questing youth. It is quite the attractive work, and doubly so in this context because of certain affinities with the music of Vaughan Williams. The "ritual" so to speak lies partly in the compositional procedures governing the behavior of the initial notes, partly in the decorum of the antiphony between the small and large string groups, and partly in the progress of the work from regal at the outset (calling to my mind some of the Works for Strings by Braga Santos or the earlier works by Henry Cowell such as the "Hymn and Fugueing Tunes" etc.) to ethereal at the end. The single modal (Dorian) movement begins with superimposed fifths which move forward majestically in contrary motion, in a long songlike peroration. The contrary motion yields frictions and dissonances which are multiplied in the middle section; here the frames of fifths are filled with variation note patterns. The String Quartet is increasingly prominent in the middle section, and an intense point of arrival is reached, after which the work draws to a close very quietly. Beautiful music..
I will write up on composer Pierre Mercure tonight as I must leave for work immediately. Same with the track listing (only the last work by Mercure is in more than one movement).
The Vaughan Williams and the Elgar need no introduction; I am sure most visitors here could effortlessly write a dissertation on either masterful work :) I will that "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" gets a very very good reading here, as does Elgar's "Introduction and Allegro". The musicians here are more than just capable!