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msv 28528 (2CD for the price of 1)
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John Ramsay is a professor of geology by profession but also a very serious composer, of both chamber and orchestral works. His style is chiefly tonal though he does utilise serial techniques on occasion. The four string quartets are perfect examples of the best of 'post-modernist' music, employing no artificial boundaries, but being pure self expression using the most appropriate musical forms. They are to some degree programmatic and thus Romantic in idiom too and thoroughly deserve a place in the chamber music repertoire.

The quartets (score and parts) are published by Brandon Music - see here

playing time: CD1 38.32  
direct sale price:  £12.00
audio  sample:  Quartet no. 3 - Scherzi (extract)
buy one

String Quartet No. 1 in D minor
String Quartet No. 2 in E minor ("Shackleton")
String Quartet No. 3 in C major
String Quartet No. 4 ("Charles Darwin")

review extracts: for full reviews click here

“Sounds real, involved and borne by a living spirit..[No. 4] in particular has captured my unswerving attention. These masterful quartets are given here their world premiere recording by the distinguished Fitzwilliam String Quartet.” – Jean-Yves Duperron (Classical Music Sentinel)

“A notable contribution to the British quartet repertoire… well worth getting to know. All I can do is to recommend these discs very strongly. The performances seem excellent as is the recording quality, and the booklet notes are splendid.” – Alexander Leonard (Musical Opinion) - five stars awarded.

“A notable new CD release. At a time when decoding is mandatory to separate spin from substance, it is refreshing to discover a CD release that does exactly what it says on the can. Totally committed performances are captured in excellent sound. John Ramsay comes to us as a fully formed composer with something important to say and the technique to say it.” – Bob Shingleton (

“The playing is excellent and enthusiastic. All four of John Ramsay's String Quartets are worthy examples of the genre and undoubtedly deserve a place in the repertoire. They form an impressive cycle.” – John France (MusicWeb)

“John Ramsay is … on the basis of this CD, a highly talented composer. [The four quartets] are most accessible and deserving of attention… they are all such as to commend themselves to the intelligent music-lover. Strongly recommended.” - Robert Matthew-Walker (Musical Opinion) - five stars awarded

“While the music is intellectually challenging, it's also very approachable, making for one of the most interesting chamber releases to appear in some time. The performances by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet are impeccable… razor sharp precision, confidence and emotional commitment. The sound is exceptionally clear.” – Robert E McQuiston (Classical Lost and Found)

“Ramsay's quartets reveal a deep understanding of and admiration for the genre's giants. Ramsay shies away from contemporary trends – his music is vastly more distinctive.” – Grant Chu Covell (La Folia)

“This is a worthwhile and substantial body of work which convinces through the quality of its performances. John Ramsay is indeed fortunate to have the support of such a fine string quartet and with an excellent recording this is a release which deserves respect and attention.” – Dominy Clements (MusicWeb)

“Ramsay's quartets are fundamentally tonal, with a good deal of chromaticism along the way .. typified by well-structured movements … they are deeply considered, individual, serious, sculptured works. Their self-evident intellectual grounding makes their instant approachability all the more gladdening. [The Fitzwilliams] perform John Ramsay with the same intensity and attentiveness they have previously accorded Shostakovich.” – Byzantion (MusicWeb)

“John Ramsay is an interesting character. His music is essentially tonally based, appealing to the ear, but not without a more acerbic side and also capable of some depth. A spirited performance by the Fitzwilliam Quartet.” – Colin Clarke (Tempo)