as a fan of Benjamin Britten's string quartet + chamber music for over a decade now - i have just repurchased this fine cd by the Maggini Qrt on bargain label naxos to compoare with other fine versions by the Endellion Qrt (EMI), Britten Qrt (Collins), Alberni Qrt ((CRD) , Sorrel Qrt (Chandos)+ Belcea Qrt (EMI - to be reviewed). the good news for those on tight budget is that the Maggini Qrt play these beautiful yet austere quartets very well indeed with plenty of poise + insight into this emotionally complex music. i wouldn't place the Maggini's playing here as on a par with the above quartets becuase of a slight lack of expressive depth + poise in places, but this cd is still a fine introduction to these wonderous,elegaic quartets.
the music itself is now thankfully well represented on cd - as it should be as Britten's quartets are some of the most searching + innovative quartets written during the 20th Century. Bartok's + Shostakovich's quartets are deservedly benchmark works yet - i often play the Britten string works including his Phantasy (op.2)+ early string compositions (covered by the Endellion + Sorrel Qrts in their releases) as they're equally as emotionally demanding yet contain perhaps a more rarified sound world full of meldoic fragments, taught writing expressing doubt,longing and loss . a recent purchase of Kurt Weill's String quartet (1923) played by the Brandis Quartet alerts me that the young Britten at the time must have heard Weill's Quartet as his own quartets feature very similar sparse chromatic textures. not easy listening, but easier to approach at first, than that of the Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok or the later Shostakovich quartets.
the first + second quarters and the three divertimenti all contained in this naxos cd vol.1 are strongly recommended for the keen quartet afficianado + curious music fan alike. a far cry from much of the overly nostalgic soundworld of Britten's british contemporaries at the time.