Last week we reviewed the piano quintets of Frank Bridge and Cyril Scott; Hill was operating at a similar time and writes music that’s not a million miles away, but while Bridge and Scott were stiff upper lippish and English, this collection, the last in a series, offers the warmth of an Antipodean giving you a beer and a seat by the window.
Hill was the leading Australian-born composer of the late romantic era, and during his studies in Leipzig met the likes of Brahms, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky and Strauss. His 17 string quartets draw on the legacy of European chamber music, say the Press notes, but we’d say he lacks the European stuffiness.
Opener, String Quartet No. 15 in A minor (1937) starts off wistfully but with a delicate and appealing violin melody that turns in a catchy repeated little refrain. It’s the kind of tune that could be seized on by a band like Sky and turned into a prog tune. In a quiet way, it’s stirring stuff, and it’s romantic in a striding-through-the-meadows kind of way. The first and fourth movements are livelier. (Don’t say you’ve forgotten Sky? The symphonic rock group featuring guitarist John Williams, bassist Herbie Flowers and Francis Monkman?).
String Quartet No 16 includes a setting of a 17th-century Irish song followed by an Irish Jig, while No. 17 is less lively than the other two pieces and concludes with a brief quotation from Dvorák’s New World Symphony.
This is a nice album in its own right, and essential for anyone who has collected the other CDs in the series. Out on Naxos, 8573416.