If ever there was a contemporary band whose music was the perfect subject matter for arrangement for string quartet, it is Jethro Tull. There was always a classical feel to many of the original arrangements, especially during their progressive-folk heyday from which many of these songs have been garnered. Add to that the wandering nature of Ian Anderson’s flute, often the lead line of many of these songs and you have all the basic ingredients for the perfect exodus to more classical climes. But who would take on such a task? The Carducci Quartet that’s who.
I guess if a string quartet were good enough for the likes of Beethoven, Bartok and Britten then it is good enough for Anderson, and The Carducci Quartet appealed to our hero due to their ability to perform as a symbiotic unit, one that results in them going beyond being four brilliant players and become one single musical organism. And the results are stunning.
Adding the obvious flute focal points and occasionally John O’Hara’s masterful and fluid piano to the violins, viola and cello of the Quartet, a whole host of classic Tull songs are re-examined, re-explored and re-interpreted in such a way that as much as the original songs are clearly on show, much that is new also emerges. Sub-melodies, transient counterpoints and seemingly fleeting and inconsequential musical lines often find themselves with a larger role to play, sometimes these new arrangements are content to capture just the essence of the original recordings on their way to beautiful new reimagining, other times they remain true to the original band-centric deliveries.
Aqualung, Living In The Past, Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses and many more classics all come under the ear of John O’Hara’s new orchestrations and as they see a new lease of life in wonderful new musical trappings you realize that even if 10 more such albums were produced, it wouldn’t seem a song, a chorus or even a musical bridge too far.