Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003)

Monday, August 22, 2022

St George’s Hall, Liverpool

This lunchtime recital opened with Doreen Carwithen’s String Quartet No.2 (1952), a two-movement affair, slow and shadowy, restless, quite adventurous harmonically, and then – dark to light, enigmatic to clear-cut – a fast, rhythmically vital movement with a French flavour when reminiscing, if essentially English overall, with the very occasional hint of Bartók. The Dudok Quartet (three girls and a cellist guy) played Carwithen’s cosmopolitan and suggestive twenty-minute score (perhaps more accomplished in the writing than the invention, and like her husband, William Alwyn, she included film music in her output) with enthusiasm, sensitivity and panache, and the players also made a fine job of Brahms’s A-minor Quartet (Opus 51/2), an unforced lightly-textured reading of music that can seem too thick, here intimate and expressive, especially the Andante moderato, the listener as eavesdropper. Maybe there wasn’t enough tempo contrast between the first two movements (the Dudok members take qualifying markings such as non troppo seriously), which was made up for in the variety of the intermezzo-like third (basically a minuet) and then in the striving Finale.