Aldeburgh Festival – Matthew Rose & Albion Quartet at Orford Parish Church

Dover Beach, Op.3
Two Pieces for String Quartet
Kate Whitley
Three Charlotte Mew Settings
Dominic Wills
Over the Rolling Waters Go [world premiere]
String Quartet in A-minor

Albion Quartet [Tamsin Waley-Cohen & Emma Parker (violins), Rosalind Ventris (viola) & Nathaniel Boyd (cello)] with Matthew Rose (bass)

Reviewed by: Barnaby Page

Reviewed: 19 June, 2017
Venue: Church of St Bartholomew, Orford, Suffolk, England

Albion QuartetPhotograph: © Patrick AllenThe apparently cataclysmic effect of hot weather on public transport that’s better known for not coping with cold kept me from the opening Americans, but the Albion Quartet and Matthew Rose made a fine and sensitive introduction to Kate Whitley’s Three Charlotte Mew Settings: ‘Sea Love’, ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ and ‘Rooms’. The violin and viola parts make it clear that melancholy is never far away; grief is occasionally thrust in our face and restfulness is rarely to be found in these songs, appropriately matching a poet who might be seen as something of an English Sylvia Plath.

Much of the ambience of the Whitley subtly infused William Walton’s String Quartet (effectively his second, the early ‘first’ is uncharacteristic), full of rhythmic energy which the Albion musicians threw themselves into; but as the performance hinted, the hyperactivity may also conceal a certain unease.

An Aldeburgh Young Musician and award-winner, and one of his teachers is Charlotte Bray, Dominic Wills’s Over the Rolling Waters Go sets Tennyson’s Sweet and Low, and adheres closely to the text without slavish word-painting, attempting, says the composer, “to apply my interests in harmony and polyphony but with a degree of simplicity within each individual line.” His achievement in that is evident. It should now be rewarding to see how this youthful composer’s language develops, and how his influences continue to manifest themselves, as he tackles larger forms.

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