Dating from the closing years of WW2, Tippett’s Third is his most expansive and ambitious quartet, notable for the driving fugue of its opening movement and the two extraordinary slow movements. The first of these, a lush and intensely moving pastoral with echoes of Byrd, Dowland and Purcell, deserves the kind of stand-alone status afforded to Barber’s Adagio, while the second, which oscillates organically from glacial stillness to volcanic abandon is simply unlike anything in quartet repertoire.
The Heaths pair it with the last of Beethoven’s Razumovsky quartets. While its bafflingly ambiguous introduction must have unsettled contemporary ears, it soon reveals itself as the friendliest of the three Opus 59 masterworks, drawing the listener with it through the superbly crafted first movement, the melancholic second and the elegant third, before leaving them slack-jawed by the most exhilarating 6 minutes in all chamber music.
Tippett: String Quartet No.3 Beethoven: String Quartet No.9 in C major, Op.59 No.3