Arthur Bliss is best known for his orchestral works (among others the wonderful A Colour Symphony and the imaginative ballet Checkmate), but he composed music in all genres, and on the evidence of Naxos's series his chamber music isn't inferior to his orchestral works. And his music is certainly worth listening to; sophisticated and original but always inventive, well-crafted and superbly written for the instruments.
The piano quartet of 1915 is imaginative, generally tuneful and varied, with two passionate outer movements separated by a charming, brief Mazurka. Donohoe's playing is maybe a little to vigorous for this generally lyrical music, but in general he leads a solid and well-considered performance and he surely brings excitement to the music, excellently backed up by member of the always trustworthy Maggini quartet. The viola sonata, dating from 1933, is however the gem here; a deeply profound, turbulent utterance, more harmonically advanced than the piano quartet; to which Martin Outram responds by almost effortlessly navigating the substantial technical challenges to realize an utterly compelling performance. The ambitious and emotionally probing second movement is superbly brought off with panache, concentration and a assured approach to textures and form. This is, in fact, world-class playing, and Outram is excellently partnered by the superb Julian Rolton.
The oboe quartet from 1927 is far easier listening, focusing more on atmosphere. And it is indeed an imaginative, wonderfully evocative work, full of wistful, nostalgic, soaring melodies over imaginatively shifting harmonic bases, often strikingly beautiful but hinting at something more uneasy and profound. The performances are again outstanding, with not only magnificently played individual parts but an interplay and balance between the instruments which sounds exactly as good as it could be done. In short, this is a winner of a disc, even more compelling than the one containing the first string quartet. Sound quality is splendid as well, as is the documentation. Do hear this one.