The Smith Quartet return on Signum with a new album of commissions and world premiere recordings, all centered on the theme of ‘Dance’. The featured programme is a veritable ‘whos-who’ of contemporary composition, including works from Michael Nyman, Graham Fitkin, Jon Lord, Michael Finnissy and Django Bates.

Praise for previous albums with the Smith Quartet on Signum:
"How long before the Kronos is labelled the ‘American Smith Quartet’? … they are ahead of the curve at generating new repertoire and taking the experimental back-catalogue seriously"  Classic FM Magazine 



What people are saying

 " … an exuberant collection of 14 short pieces, each by a different composer. All are played with vim and technical brilliance … the variety of response to the rhythmic impulse is impressive." The Times   

"A diverse collection of 14 works is bound together by quality of composition and performance … like a box of excellent chocolates, inviting frequent tasting." Classical Music Magazine – EDITOR’S CHOICE
"Come dancing with The Smith Quartet … infectious enthusiasm and spirited playing" Classic FM Magazine

 The Smith Quartet

Release date:31st Jan 2011
Order code:SIGCD236
Barcode: 635212023624

 Gramophone, June 2011

The imposing stone of St Marks swapped for the tight, light wood of Kings Place
The 400th anniversary of Monteverdi’s Vespers continues to make its presence felt with this new account from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under their keyboard player Robert Howarth, the product of a specially convened concert at Kings Place in London last August following a springtime European tour with the piece. This is essentially a "straight" performance in the sense that there is no added chant, the order of pieces is as per the original publication (though with the addition of a motet, Exultent caeli, and a Violin Sonata by Fontana somewhat curiously placed at the very end), and instrumental participation is restricted to what appears in Monteverdi’s score, Howarth perhaps reckoning that his 22-strong choir is substantial enough.
So it is, the typically British line-up of expert consort singers providing some lusty moments and responding well to Howarth’s robust attention to the meaning of the words. It also serves up some fine soloists, not least Nicholas Mulroy, a tenor already on his third Vespers recording and getting better with each one. But the choir’s collective sound is somehow rather plain, at times even pallid. It may be that the concert-hall acoustic is a bit mean on them or possibly that the selected high pitch of A=466 is out of their vocal comfort zone (that perhaps also being the reason for some unusual shifts in tone-colour and lapses in intensity), but it is also fair to say that Howarth does not shape and blend his choral sound with the skill of a Christie or a Gardiner. He does have some nice interpretative ideas, though: the ritornellos in the opening Responsorium swing deliciously, the excellently sung Exultent caeli is suitably uplifting and the Magnificat effectively swift-paced. That this is a concert recording, however, is proved by a number of small accidents of tuning and ensemble.
Of recent Vespers releases, Christina Pluhar’s one-to-a-part recording with L’Arpeggiata (Virgin, 5111) is a stunning and colourful arrival on the scene; Howarth’s less vivid choral version may not excite in the same way, and nor does it have the same level of finish, but it has a certain coherence and honesty of its own all the same.

Lindsay Kemp

 Classic FM Magazine

The Music. Come dancing with The Smith Quartet and their partners John Adams, British complexisist Michael Finnissy, former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, jazzman Django Bates, macho minimalist Michael Nyman, Romantic minimalist Graham Fitkin, South African composer Kevin Volans, everybody’s favourite Chinese composer Tan Dun, and many others.
The Performance. With a smorgasbord of aesthetic approaches like that, some tracks inevitably appeal more than others. Finnissy’s seditious upending of a classical minuet, with dance-steps forced to trip over themselves, is the standout moment for this listener; otherwise Gabriel (grandson of Sergey) Prokofiev’s re-imagined Jamaican dance beats in Bogle Move and Donnacha Dennehy’s inscrutable Stamp (To Avoid Erotic Thoughts) are as satisfying as Nyman’s lumpen Tango and Dun’s dull Black Dance are disappointing, with the rest falling in line somewhere between. Django Bates’s faux-Irish reels end matters on an exhilarating high.
The Verdict. As always, The Smith Quartet’s infectious enthusiasm and spirited playing belies its vanilla moniker (with apologies to any readers called Smith). An enjoyable overall concept, but most listeners will undoubtedly skip between tracks thereafter.

Philip Clark

The Independent on Sunday, March 2011

The Smith Quartet shimmy their way through a vibrant selection of overt and covert dances by living composers: with John Adams’ “£Pavane”? and Kevin Volans’ “£First Dance”? the most familiar and Elena Kats-Chernin’s “£Naïve Waltz”? the most elegant. While Joe Cutler’s “£Folk Music”? looks to the Tatra Mountains, Django Bates’s “£Peculiar Terms of Physical Intimacy”? is inspired by Ireland. Donnacha Dennehy’s infections “£STAMP”? is a caffeinated riff on a 14th-century Saltarello.

Anna Picard

Classical Music Magazine, March 2011

A diverse collection of 14 works is bound together by quality of composition and performance, testimony to the fecund relationship between modern dance and contemporary composers. The vibrant energy of Andrew Poppy’s Definitely Disco, intricate delicacy of John Adams’ Pavane: She’s so fine, staccato bustle of Gabriel Prokofiev’s BogIe Move and wistfulness of Jon Lord’s Zarabanda Solitaria – like a box of excellent chocolates, inviting frequent tasting.

Phillip Sommerich

The Times, February 2011


This is an exuberant collection of 14 short pieces, each by a different composer. All are played with vim and technical brilliance, and if one or two pieces I find unappealing – a Tango by Michael Nyman is all predictable phrase structures and harmonic sequences – the variety of response to the rhythmic impulse is impressive. Michael Finnissy’s Minuet is a gloriously subversive take on classical niceties, while Joe Cutler’s beguiling Folk Music (Daithi’s Dumka) contains much quasi-improvisatory work for solo violin.

Stephen Pettit

  1. Dancing in the Spirit – Tunde Jegede – 5.44
  2. Folk Music (Daithi’s Dumka) – Joe Cutler – 5.15
  3. Pavane: She’s so fine – John Adams – 6.39
  4. Informal Dance – Graham Fitkin – 2.18
  5. Definitely Disco – Andrew Poppy – 5.34
  6. Minuet – Michael Finnissy – 2.04
  7. Black Dance – Tan Dun – 1.58
  8. First Dance – Kevin Volans – 4.36
  9. Tango – Michael Nyman – 3.37
  10. Zarabanda Solitaria – Jon Lord – 4.33
  11. Bogle Move – Gabriel Prokofiev – 4.05
  12. Na?ve Waltz – Elena Kats-Chernin – 2.09
  13. STAMP (to avoid erotic thoughts) – Donnacha Dennehy – 7.25
  14. Peculiar Terms of Physical Intimacy – Django Bates – 3.12