Everbest Music’s complete recording of Virgil Thomson’s chamber music was recorded at the 2012 Monadnock Music Festival under the leadership of Grammy Award–winning conductor and producer Gil Rose. Sponsored by the Virgil Thomson Foundation, the set comprises 63 tracks, including three world premiere recordings (two brief fanfares and a Masterpiece Theatre charmer for violin). The music for strings includes the marvelous Sonata da Chiesa, the two string quartets, a violin sonata, an assortment of musical portraits for violin, a Stabat Mater for soprano and string quartet, and a grumbling portrait of the painter Frederic James for cello and piano.
The opening bars of the Sonata da Chiesa show why it is probably the most-requested piece by clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, and viola quintets. The combination creates its own emotionally complex sound world and provides violist Noriko Futagami with a haunting solo in the desultory Tango.
The String Quartet No. 1 opens with a splendidly original idea in the cello, which the whole quartet takes up as a sort of alter ego to the main lyrical vein. After a totally charming Tempo di valzer with Ivesian proclivities and complications, the quartet concludes with a deeply felt Lento, moving amorphously around the edges of tonality and leading to a dizzying Presto chase.
The String Quartet No. 2, first recorded in 1955 by the Juilliard Quartet, continues in the same civilized manner, more confidently perhaps as evidenced by the jauntier Viennese decadence of its Tempo di valzer. There is something immediately appealing about the long, anguished sentences of the Adagio sostenuto third movement, which is really the center of the piece and perhaps of the set.
The music for violin includes the throughly Straussian Le Bains-bar waltz, indecently delightful and ravishingly played by Irina Muresanu as if it were a particularly dreamy bit of Tchaikovsky.