'This outstanding disc offers listeners a true philosophical journey. Perceptively programmed, Between Two Worlds explores the mystic properties of time through a series of intricately connected works, each performed with rare beauty and originality by a quartet working at the height of its powers ... The Castalian Quartet is intimately alive to every shift of colour and mood in this extraordinary score and succeeds in conjuring the sense of both deep contemplation and vivid spontaneity. The quartet is especially daring with timbre, sometimes stripping back the sound to viol-like clarity while also being unafraid to dig in with a refreshing rawness when the score so demands ... This is indeed a special release from Delphian and the Castalian Quartet which deserves the very highest praise'
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
'Imaginatively programmed around two masterpieces of string-quartet writing, this Castalian String Quartet album is a triumph. Lassus’ haunting, late-16th-century setting of a poem about the return of light after darkness sets the very special tone and ushers in Beethoven’s late String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, which explores mortality while seeking to step outside time. The Castalians play it with moving humanity and empathy for its anguish and hope. Thomas Adès’ The Four Quarters (2011) follows the time of a day, but it too seems to escape time in “The Twenty-fifth Hour”. The album closes centuries earlier with Dowland’s plea for sleep—or perhaps death'
'How often do we listen to a full string quartet programme and feel we’ve been taken to hell and back? Not in a bad way. It’s just that music for this genre can, without respite, amount to quite a heavy emotional load, Whether that thought was instrumental in guiding the excellent Castalian Quartet towards such a beautifully balanced sequence - heavyweight Beethoven and Adès softened, indeed contextualised, by exquisite miniatures by Lassus and Dowland - is neither here not there. The end result is as refreshing as it is profound. There’s a distinctive quality to this ensemble’s playing that fuses personality and oneness ...'
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"The Castalian Quartet play everything here with such intelligent reflection and revealing precision making -- telling connections between Adés and Beethoven; Lassus and Dowland. [A] beautifully made and imaginative concept album, and a lovely recording as well"
'This is a highly atmospheric and imaginitvely planned programme ... Prior to Ades' highly accessible and aurally dazzling celbration of time divided, the quartet present what is arguablly the greatest of Beethoven's 'late' quartets ... certainly, the Castalian Quartet give it the outing of its life ... The playing of the Castalian Quartet is consistently sensitive, bright, focussed, agile and, in that glorious slow movement, devout without ever sounding arc or sanctimonious ... this excellent presentation (beautifully recorded in Greyfriars Kirk last year with Paul Baxter) facilitates a highly creative brand of time travel ... there's more to come, we're told, which on the evidence of this can only be a good thing ... '
"Beethoven’s late quartet, No 15 in A minor, Op 132, at its heart, beautifully sprung, precise and detailed. The pivotal “thanksgiving” slow movement is taut and serene. A compelling reason to buy the disc is Thomas Adès’s The Four Quartets, Op 28, tracing the course of the day from the whispered harmonics of Nightfalls to the zestful pizzicatos of Morning Dew, the persistent ostinatos of Days and the disrupted fictions of The Twenty-Fifth Hour ...Many quartets have broken the tradition of single-composer discs. The Castalians do it with top performances and meticulous imagination"
"Between Two Worlds is a magnificent disc; beautifully recorded, still more beautifully played. It leaves an indelible impact ..."
read the full review here
RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2022
Beethoven:String Quartet No. 15 in A minor
Category: beethoven, Castalian String Quartet, Chamber, Classical, Early Music, Editor's Choices, YCAT
Kate Wakeling reviews Castalian String Quartet's phenominal Between Two Worlds, chosen as BBC Music Magazine's Album of the Month in June 2022
This outstanding disc offers listeners a true philosophical journey. Perceptively programmed, Between Two Worlds explores the mystic properties of time through a series of intricately connected works, each performed with rare beauty and originality by a quartet working at the height of its powers.
The disc opens with a mesmerising, near-whispered performance of Lassus’s ‘La nuit froide et sombre’ (arranged by the quartet’s own first violinist Sini Simonen) which charts the cycle of night and day as a mirror of the human propensity to oscillate between hope and despair. From here, we move to Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, a piece which travels ‘from the terrestrial to the celestial and back’. This work, the second of Beethoven’s five late quartets, was composed in the summer of 1825, just two years before the composer’s death. By now, Beethoven’s hearing loss was profound and he was intermittently stricken with a horribly painful intestinal problem. The score reflects it all with heartrending intensity, in the words of Simonen ‘moving from the anguished to the heavenly before crashing back to earthly suffering’.
The Castalian Quartet is intimately alive to every shift of colour and mood in this extraordinary score and succeeds in conjuring the sense of both deep contemplation and vivid spontaneity. The quartet is especially daring with timbre, sometimes stripping back the sound to viol-like clarity while also being unafraid to dig in with a refreshing rawness when the score so demands. The quartet’s rendering of the work’s monumental third movement – subtitled Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart (Song of Thanksgiving from a Convalescent to the Divinity, in the Lydian mode) – is nothing short of a revelation in its lucidity of line and sheer beauty of sound...
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of BBC Music Magazine
Part of the YCAT series on Delphian
This partnership between Delphian Records and YCAT offers rare new recording opportunities for the most promising young artists, combining YCAT’s mission of developing careers at a world-class level with Delphian’s twenty-year-long reputation for bold, considered programming. The partnership will give the artists a unique experience – from initial concept planning, recording and editing to the final packaged and digital product – and will enhance Delphian and YCAT’s commitments to nurturing artists’ artistic development and long-term careers.
Read more about the partnership and discover the range of releases here