ALAN RIDOUT (1934-1996): String Quartets Nos. 1-5, String Quartet No. 6 “La Vitréen”.
Catalogue Number: 07U058
Label: Omnibus Classics
Description: Ridout's varied, tonal, beautifully crafted output for string quartet is an absolute pleasure. He came to the venerable and exalted, highly personal genre rather late in his sadly abbreviated career, and seems to have mastered it immediately. All the quartets were written in the last decade of his life. The 1st sounds like a young, rather angst-ridden composer trying to write a quartet like Shostakovich, and doing a remarkably good job of it - except that he was fifty when he wrote it. A desolate first movement is followed by an abrasive scherzo and a dark-hued, lamenting set of variations. The 2nd, by complete contrast, is lively and genial, full of jaunty syncopation and an 'English' feeling of modality. The 3rd consists of a dignified and noble fugue and passacaglia, again rather English-sounding, with a sort of Bach arr. Elgar feeling. A breathless scherzo separates the two. Then we enter the austere, rarefied air of the 4th, in a single span comprising three sections. The work is clearly a response to the downturn in the composer's health, the diagnosis of a heart condition which killed him four years later. The prevailing mood of melancholy is interrupted, though scarcely relieved, by an obsessively repetitive scherzo-like section, whose forced gaiety becomes grating long before it is supplanted by an eerie, glacial chorale. He followed this with another single-span work, the brief, happy little 5th, with a folk-like tinge, over which a shadow abruptly falls at the end. Finally, Ridout shows his versatility in his final quartet, which reflects his pleasure in his move to France in his last years, in five little vignettes of French scenes from a lively, bustling market and local folk traditions in modal, French folksong-inflected mood to a stately chorale for the local chateau, to a plainchant-inspired movement for the city's imposing Gothic church. Coull Quartet.