This is a superb follow-up to the Tippett Quartet’s first disc of its namesake’s works (reviewed in December 2008). The two quartets here are separated by 45 years, but share a penchant for lyricism combined with a fascination for Beethovenian form. Hence the five-part no.3 (1946) intersperses three fugal movements with extended songful interludes and the two-movement Fifth (1991) sets a dynamic exploration of development against a long, elaborate fantasy inspired by Beethoven’s late quartets and piano sonatas.
The Tippett Quartet’s players impress in no.3 in the way the leading voice in the counterpoint is always given focus and as a whole they convey that ideal balance between corporate togetherness and individualism. If the long, held notes of the second slow movement could sound firmer, the musicians track the music’s three-times progression from stasis to passion with real engagement. The commitment continues with no.5, which has a more spacious, lived-in feel than The Lindsays’s recording made shortly after the premiere (ASV). There’s plenty of textural richness in both movements (especially the bell-like chords of the first), and some fine solo playing in the long, radiant lines of the slow finale.
The sound is forward and well-balanced, but marred by a background rumble in the bass regions.