The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Real Vocal String Quartet
Composer: Various

RVSQ presents originals and arrangements from various world folk traditions, its four members combining string playing and singing in an imaginative and charming way.

Right from the opening moments, the articulation of the violin pizzicato and viola tune transport the listener out of the classical string quartet sound world and on a journey from Kenya to Brazil, Argentina, the US and beyond. The group is as agile nipping between styles as in its playing, whether grasping a choppy, Bluegrass feel in Kitchen Girls or finding a nifty, jaunty precision in the Brazilian choro Fonte Abandonada–Passatempo, drawing on a wide range of colours and acoustic effects.

Despite the variety of musical influences, RVSQ has an identifiable group sound that weaves through the album, aided in no small part by the vocal contributions, split between solo and ensemble. The a cappella chorale shows off the group’s impeccable balance and tuning of cluster chords, the sound folksy, straight but bright.

Back on the strings, small details such as the moments of luminescent, octave pizzicato between violin and cello are delightful and, if the brief improvisatory sections aren’t dazzling, they are imbued with expressiveness and a polished stylistic conviction. This group can play – and sing.

Chris Elcombe