Arnold: Sonata for Strings (arr David Matthews after String Quartet No 2); Elgar: String Quartet in E minor, Op 83 (arr for string orchestra by David Matthews); Simpson: Allegro deciso from String Quartet No 3 (arr for string orchestra by the composer)

Reviewed on Mon 04 May, 2015

The danger with enlarging chamber music, removing it from the recital room, is that you can lose the intimacy of (in this case) four string-players conversing; and if there is a ‘halfway house’ number of personnel (here 16) then it’s far short of a symphony orchestra’s strength of around 60. You can’t argue with Robert Simpson, his own transcription of the Allegro deciso finale of Quartet No 3. This energetic music (if with light, shade and eerie calm) sounds under-nourished here, the ‘wide’ recording overly reverberant. David Matthews is a consummate arranger, from the inside; nevertheless Elgar’s Quartet comes across as too serenade-like – lovely music, but... Malcolm Arnold’s Sonata for Strings (originally Quartet No 2) needs the direct and edgy emotions of single players to a part. The solo violin at the opening of the second movement tells all, the corporate follow-up sears but lacks individual communication. Full marks, mind you, for the dedicated performances.
–Colin Anderson