String Quartet No.4, Op.71
Suite No.1 of National Songs and Dances
Joseph Holbrooke (1878-1958) born near London in the town of Croydon. Both his parents were musicians and his early lessons were with his father. He was sent to the Royal Academy of Music in London and after graduating worked as a pianist and conductor, all the while composing. Eventually his big works for orchestra and chorus and his operas brought him considerable fame, however, after the First World War, he and his works fell into obscurity. He composed a considerable amount of chamber music, most of which is of a high quality and awaits rediscovery.
Holbrooke's String No.4, which dates from 1916, and is the first of two suites for string quartet which became known as National Songs & Dances for string quartet. As the soundbites clearly illustrate, Holbrooke did not write a didactic, simple take on these folktunes, but instead used them in a sophisticated fashion as had classical composers since the time of Haydn. Suite No.1 consists of four movements and in each there is a wealth of mood and tempo changes. The first is entitled Come Lasses and Lads which is the title of the first folksong. There are two others: Simon the Cellarer and We All Love a Pretty Girl under the Rose.The second movement is entitled The Last Rose of Summer an Irish air from the late 18th century. The third movement is antoher well-known Irish air entitled Mavourneen Deelish also known as Savournin Deelish--My Dearest Darling. It also dates from the late 18th century. The finale is Strathspeys and Reels is a set of 8 Scottish dances, most dating back to the early 18th century. They are in order of appearance: 1. The Deil amang the Tailors, 2. Clydesdie Lasses, 3. Gillie Callum, 4. The Fife Hunt, 5. Green Grow the Rushes, 6. Johnny Made a Wedding Oath, 7. The Highland Man Kissed His Mother and 8. Over the Bogie with My Love.
This is a very engaging work, clearly first rate. Along with his other Folk Suite stands virtually alone in its unique use of British folk music in a early modern post romantic framework. Our of print for the better part of a century, we are pleased to make it available once again. It will make a fine concert choice but amateurs will have fun playing it as well.