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In string quartet terms the Albion Quartet are mere striplings, having only come together in 2016. In experience individually they are anything but. Led by Tamsin Waley- Cohen and with Nathaniel Boyd as the cellist anchor they have two of the most versatile (and busy) string players in Britain. Both are known for their thoughtful playing and it is evident in their approach to Dvořák. This is the second disc of a full cycle of his quartets for Signum and it is shaping up to be rewarding. They bring elegance and gentleness to these relatively early pieces, the first of which particularly impressed Brahms (as Roger Parker points out in his excellent sleeve notes).

The Albion take care with these intimate works. After a while, though, that is in danger of coming over as just a tad on the polite side. Dvořák was a man of strong passions but while these readings offer delight they too rarely suggest depth of romantic feeling beyond the lyricism, except in the more overtly accented passages. Restraint wins out over expressive warmth. This is peck on the cheek stuff, not a full- blown hug, very different from the moody seriousness suggested by the cover design.

If that is a reservation, it is often overcome by the clarity and nimbleness of the playing and the determination of each voice to cut through the general texture. Especially in the 10th quartet this is important, since many of the most telling phrases are in the inner parts. My suspicion is that, if the Albion Quartet absorb these works more into their concert repertoire, the interpretations will come to have greater complexity. There are another 10 quartets and (I hope) Cypresses to come. In the meantime there is plenty of simple pleasure to be had.

Simon Mundy Read the full review on Agora Classica


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