ROBERT CRAWFORD (b.1925): String Quartets No. 1, Op. 4, No. 2, Op. 8 and No. 3.
Catalogue Number: 05N061
Description: Crawford’s idiom is a firmly tonal one, with a constant, and skillfully judged, tension between levels of dissonance and consonance providing drama and direction. A student of Frankel and influenced by Walton and Bartók, the composer inherited a hard-edged clarity and economy, and although his quartets are more conventional than Bartók’s, hey inhabit a similar harmonic realm. The large First builds a substantial first movement from continuous variation of limited material. A tense slow movement provides the dramatic heart of the piece, followed by a sotto voce, scurrying scherzo and an austere fugal finale. The Second’s first movement is built on a 12-note ground bass, a rare concession to serialism and irrelevant to the work’s harmonic language, which is firmly tonal. Tempi and tension increase as the quartet progresses, culminating in an energetic rondo. 50 years later, the Third is recognisably by the same composer, with a tendency toward greater acerbity and austerity to the harmonies, but featuring the same contrapuntal tension and varied treatment of economical thematic material. Edinburgh Quartet.