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The Emerson String Quartet go all english for anniversary release / Musical Toronto

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This new recording by the Emerson explores a side of Britten that is often overlooked: his admiration for Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and how that admiration was expressed in his music. Britten made ‘realizations' or modern performing editions of numerous Purcell works, including Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, and the Chacony for strings included on this new CD. He also composed his own Chacony as the last movement of his String Quartet No. 2, a Chacony that also turns up in his Suite No. 2 for cello, as well as in several of his other compositions. A chacony or chaconne is a set of variations, repeated over and over, on a ground bass. A close relative of the chacony is the passacaglia in which the variations are based on a chord sequence rather than on a repeated bass line. Britten was also fond of the passacaglia as evidenced by his String Quartet No. 3, Peter Grimes, the Suite No. 3 for cello and a number of other works.

The Emerson String Quartet plays the Purcell pieces on this CD with at least a nod to period performance practice; yes, vibrato is used sparingly, but one misses the sound of the period instruments. Furthermore, these are not really string quartet pieces - Haydn created the genre about 40 years after the death of Purcell – but they are thoughtful and appropriate companion pieces for the Britten quartets.   READ THE FULL Musical Toronto REVIEW