Two quartets with unusual extra-musical inspirations prove irresistible
Ronald Corp’s First String Quartet, ‘The Bustard’, quite possibly provides the great bird with its only musical perch. A mix of friendship and a love of ornithology fed into the work, which opens with an ungainly take-off before leaving the literal realm for a world of captivating, soaring melodic ideas (that is, except for an Elizabethan galliard in the last movement; apparently a bustard seems to be dancing one when it walks). The music is as irresistible as its subject matter, a work of dark passages as well as light, played with subtle colours and easy authority by the Maggini Quartet, for whom it was written, and who gave the first performance at the Wigmore Hall in 2008. The playing of the Mesto semplice in the second movement is wonderfully sparse and spectral.
The Second Quartet picks up where the first one leaves off, and it too has a programmatic starting point, this time the birth of a baby boy. The Maggini players produce crisp, energetic playing, bright and forward in a resonant acoustic. Mark Wilde is an engaging protagonist in the quirky, often comic song cycle Country Matters.