Chamber & Instrumental Music Arcana FM 2020

Toccata Classics turns its attention to Peter Dickinson whose impeccably crafted and stylistically wide-ranging music has enhanced British music over almost seven decades - not least these chamber & instrumental works all recorded for the first time.Dickinson might consider the Violin Sonata to be among his more challenging works, but its serial technique is subtly embedded into outer fast movements whose rhythmic tensility has an engagingly Bartokian impetus, while the central slow movement alludes to Greensleeves near the start of its spare yet at times impassioned course. At the other end of the scale, Lullaby is one of several warmly attractive and immediately accessible pieces derived from an abandoned opera, while Tranquillo is a recasting of part of the central section from the Violin Concerto...

Dickinson's output for solo violin is hardly less significant - whether with the folk-inflected plaintiveness of Air or the defty accruing velocity of Metamorphosis..More ambitious is the Fantasia with its grandly (but never wantonly) rhetorical gestures and vaunting passagework that aptly evokes the skyline of New York...

Surprising that Dickinson's String Quartets have only now received their first recordings. The First Quartet opens with an intensively argued Allegro whose energy is the more palpable for its formal concentration, then the haunting 'night music' overtones of the centra Lento - not least its quietly ecstatic solos and trenchant rhythmic ostinatos - carry over to a final Allegro whose 'mysterioso' marking dominates its speculative progress to an eruptive climax and highly equivocal close. Unfolding as an eventful and often ingeneous single movement, the Second Quartet evokes Ives in the way strings wend their leisurely yet methodical way to a rendition of the rag that the piano - heard on tape - has been soudning fragmentarily all the while. That this arrival is anything but decisive only makes the process of getting there more intriguing...    Richard Whitehouse, Arcana FM

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