Hoe schrijft men over Quink?

A single song from this stunning 2015 release Music, When Soft Voices Die was introduced to me at a music presentation which sparked my interest. Sung by the Quink vocal quartet I was struck by the stark beauty of Vaughan Williams Silence and Music. Consequently I obtained the album, a captivating selection of twenty-nine English part-songs from the pens of Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Bridge, Stanford, Moeran and Parry. Of course Irishman Stanford was born in Dublin but he spent most of his life in England teaching composition at the Royal College of Music (RCM), London. All the composers, bar the self-taught Elgar, are strongly connected to the RCM either as teachers, pupils or in Vaughan Williams’ case both. A Shelley setting the title song Music, When Soft Voices Die appears in two versions one each from Bridge and Parry. Founded in 1978 the mixed vocal quartet Quink from The Netherlands is the recipient of several awards for its albums singing repertoire that spans over five hundred years. Here on Brilliant Classics the vocal ensemble has turned its attention to the rich trove of unaccompanied part-songs from the late 19th and early 20th century English music tradition. This is a judiciously chosen collection of part-songs from six composers with every song worthy of inclusion. My particular favourites include Elgar’s Love an Arthur Maquarie setting given a haunting quality by Quink. With words by Longfellow the captivating O weary hearts by Bridge is given a deeply emotional rendition and Autumn a Shelley setting also by Bridge strongly evokes the colour palette of the season. Vaughan Williams’s wonderful Silence and Music to text by the composer’s second wife Ursula Wood with its sense of bleak and poignant impression that feels almost uncomfortable in its effect is sung with intense focus. Worthy of praise too is Vaughan Williams’s Sweet Day a George Herbert setting affectingly sung with rapt tenderness. Impeccable diction and agreeably precise intonation are hallmarks of these striking performances by Quink but accuracy never comes at the expense of colourful expression. It really is hard to imagine this collection being sung better. Recorded at Sint Martuskerk, Amersfort the sound quality is first class, clear with good presence and beautifully balanced. There is a helpful, uncredited essay in the booklet and I am pleased to report full English song texts are included. This is a captivating album of English part-songs gloriously sung and recorded which is self-recommending.
Michael Cookson

Track Listing
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
from 3 Part-Songs, Op. 18
1. O Happy Eyes, Op. 18, No. 1 [2.52]
2. Love, Op. 18, No. 2 [2.25]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
3. Music, When Soft Voices Die, H.31 [2.37]
4. The Bee, H.110 [1.22]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Three Elizabethan Partsongs:
5. Sweet Day [2.01]
6. The Willow Song [2.20]
7. O Mistress Mine [1.05]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
from 6 Irish Folksongs, Op. 78:
8. At The Mid-Hour Of Night [2.27]
9. It Is Not the Tear [2.18]
10. O Weary Hearts, H.92 [4.00]
E. J. MOERAN (1892-1950)
Songs of Springtime, R54 (1930)
11. Under the Greenwood Tree [1.23]
12. The River-God’s Song [1.39]
13. Spring, the Sweet Spring [1.34]
14. Love Is A Sickness [3.19]
15. Sigh No More, Ladies [1.13]
16. Good Wine [1.23]
17. To Daffodils [2.31]
18. In Autumn, H.62 [3.20]
19. Love Is a Sickness [1.06]
20. Fain Would I Change That Note [2.18]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
from 6 Elizabethan Pastorals:
21. Shall We Go Dance [1.12]
From 6 Irish Folksongs, Op. 78:
22. O Breathe Not His Name [3.17]
23. Silence And Music [5.26]
Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918)
6 Modern Lyrics: (1897)
24. How Sweet the Answer [1.37]
25. Modern Lyrics: II. Since Thou, O Fondest [2.21]
26. If I Had But Two Little Wings [2.05]
27. There Rolls the Deep [2.25]
28. What Voice of Gladness [2.42]
29. Music, When Soft Voices Die [2.48]

- Musicweb: February 2017 -
Is there a less fashionable genre than the part-song? Despite attempts by the likes of Britten, Moeran and Finzi to mould it into something more contemporary in the 20th century, the partsong remains stubbornly synonymous with its Victorian and Edwardian heyday and the lavenderscented works of Elgar, Stanford and Parry. Paul Spicer and his Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir have been valiantly championing this music in solid recordings of Stanford (Somm, 12/13) and Delius & Ireland (2/13), but they’ve largely been alone. Now they’ve got competition from Dutch vocal quartet Quink – a group whose relationship with English repertoire is both long and strong. Not a hint of accent blots enunciation – by turns percussive (Bridge’s ‘The Bee’) and sensuously blurred (Moeran ‘The River-God’s Song’) – that rivals the group’s tuning for precision. The blend is that of singers who have worked together for decades: even, balanced, finding all the light and shade these unashamedly sentimental settings need to flourish. Performances are excellent throughout – faultless, even – so the question here becomes one of repertoire itself, Stanford’s Six Modern Lyrics, Moeran’s Songs of Springtime and music by Elgar, Bridge and Vaughan Williams that is rather more variable in quality. Elgar’s ‘O happy eyes’ and ‘Love’ are cloyingly sweet, even when tempered by Quink’s vocal restraint, and Stanford’s ‘If I had but two little wings’ and Moeran’s ‘Spring, the sweet spring’ are barely less ghastly. The good stuff comes from Bridge and Vaughan Williams. The latter’s ‘Silence and Music’ is a marvel – chromatic, uncertain, exploratory – while Bridge’s settings unfold with all the composer’s delicate melodic instincts, benefiting from Bridge’s instinct for choosing good poetry (something Elgar sorely lacked). Quink do this repertoire as well as anyone could.

- Gramophone - January 2016 -
From the Dutch vocal ensemble, Quink, comes a truly personal collection of partsongs for a capella quartet by English composers: some well-known like Elgar’s O Happy Eyes and others less-so like Bridge’s O weary Hearts. Including some works exclusive to this disc (Parry’s Six Modern Lyrics), it is easy to let the flowing undulations of the best-loved English choral composers wash over you as Elgar, Bridge and Parry are met by Vaughan Williams, Moeran and Stanford in what is clearly a well-balanced and carefully constructed programme. The disc has a remarkably familiar feel to it, and the listening experience is one of intimacy, so much so that if you close your eyes you could almost be present at the performance itself. And that is what is so refreshing about this performance: in recent years we’ve become accustomed to over-produced, super clean-cut recordings that lack the certain organic, real-life quality that this recording possesses. A steal at £7.99, this is not a disc for the car, nor the office, but one for a cup of tea in a comfy chair after a long day.

- McAlister Matheson Music - oktober 2015 -
"Quink Vocal Ensemble recorded British choral music that is rarely performed. The parts, sung by soloists, are shaped gracefully and well-balanced.(...) The Dutch ensemble Quink, it goes almost without saying, is impeccable in intonation and togetherness of diction. Their dynamic and expressive range is extensive. Unlike quite some other vocal ensembles, Quink does not hold back to sing with voices kept artificially small. The result is a compact sound, from which a single voice emerges when required by the music".(...)

- Klassik Magazin - september 2015 -
REVIEW RECORDING OF THE MONTH Juan VAZQUEZ (c1500 - c1560) Gentil Señora Mia - 16th-century songs and villancicos

Hermosíssima María, cancion [3:21] Gentil señora mía, cancion [3:24] Gracias al cielo doy, soneto-madrigal [3:10] No pensé qu'entre pastores, villancico [2:45] Quien amores tiene ¿cómo duerme?, villancico [2:22] Si n'os uviera mirado, villancico [2:05] Con qué la lavaré, villancico [3:48] Por una vez, villancico [2:32] ¿Serrana, dónde dormistes?, cancion [2:22] ¡O dulce contemplación!, cancion [2:30] ¡A, hermosa, Abrime, cara de rosa!, cancion [1:59] ¿Qué sentis, coraçon mío?, villancico [2:03] Por mi vida, madre, villancico [2:02] Del rosal sale la rosa, villancico [2:51] ¡Torna, Mingo, a namorarte!, villancico [2:11] Morenica m'era yo, villancico [1:20] Qué razón podeys tener, villancico [1:56] Bendito sea el día, punto y ora, soneto-madrigal [4:06] Amor, virtud y nobles pensamientos, soneto-madrigal [3:40] Dexa ya tu soledad, villancico [2:53] Quink Vocal Ensemble (Marjon Strijk, Mariëtte Oelderik (soprano), Elsbeth Gerritsen (contralto), Harry van Berne (tenor), Kees Jan de Koning (bass)) rec. 3-5 November 2009, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. DDD Texts and translations included BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94711 [53:35] 

The villancico often appears in concert programmes and on discs devoted to Spanish music of the renaissance and baroque periods. It is a typical Spanish form which has a mostly spiritual content, but whose musical character is strongly rooted in popular music. The compositions by Juan Vázquez which are presented here are rather different. They belong to the early stages in the development of the villancico. Apart from villancicos we hear madrigals and canciones. They are different in form, but are similar in content. Juan Vázquez was born in Badajoz; his name appears for the first time in the records of the Cathedral of Plasencia in 1511 where he sang as a contralto. Later on he worked as a singer in Badajoz Cathedral where he also acted as teacher of plainchant. In 1539 he was a singer in Palencia Cathedral and two years later moved to Madrid where he entered the service of the Archbishop of Toledo. In 1545 he returned to Badajoz as maestro de capilla and in 1551 he moved to Seville in the service of a nobleman. Here he remained until his death. Only one sacred composition from his pen has been preserved. All the others fall into the category of secular music: villancicos and canciones. These are mostly settings of poems by some of the leading Spanish poets of his time. They were quite popular as the large numbers of intabulations for the vihuela show. Many of them were also arranged for solo voice and vihuela. One of the features of the villancico is the repetition of lines. Vázquez reduces repetitions to refrains whereas in other places he opts for rhythmic and melodic variety. Spanish music like this is often associated with lively rhythms and performances with instruments, including percussion. Don't expect anything of this kind here. In content and character these pieces are more like the Italian madrigals of the early 16th century. They are strictly polyphonic, and although there are passages where the text is depicted in the music the connection between the two is mostly rather loose. ¡A, hermosa, Abrime, cara de rosa! has the character of a dialogue, but there are no real 'roles' - only some lines are for a solo voice. The texts are all secular, but at least the words of Hermoniosíssima María which opens the disc could probably also be interpreted as a song for the Virgin Mary. 

I can't remember ever having heard these pieces - or others from Vázquez' pen - before, and the introduction to this repertoire by Quink is a most pleasant one. The music is really beautiful and well worth being explored. It is regrettable that the playing time is so short. I wouldn't mind listening for another ten or twenty minutes. That is also due to the fine singing of the ensemble. Every voice is perfectly suited to this music, and they blend wonderfully. The lines are beautifully shaped and thanks to the great transparency of sound every one of them can be heard. Add to that a perfect intonation and delivery and one can conclude that this disc is a little gem. I can't think of a better case for Vázquez' oeuvre. 

Johan van Veen http://www.musica-dei-donum.org https://twitter.com/johanvanveen

- Musicweb: recording of the Month -
The Dutch a cappella vocal quartet, Quink, sang a concert of the utmost beauty and power to a large, appreciative audience at Westminster. It's hard to believe they are only four singers---Their sound is full, rich and colorful. Quink's sensitive, artistic phrasing and spot-on intonation never failed. The audience was mesmerized. Their program (Songs of Ascent) with its varied musical settings of Psalms 120-134 included composers from the 16th to 20th centuries and Quink sang the varied musical styles with beautiful attention to detail. Many audience members commented on how they had never heard much of this music before and how incredible it was. Many had questions about the particular ways composers chose to set the texts. That is to say Quink's concert fed both the head and heart. The well-known British vocal ensemble the King's Singers have sung two wonderful concerts here in the past year (2-14-10 and 12-5-10), and while Quink certainly possesses its own unique personality, it is without doubt in the same class of a cappella vocal ensembles internationally---first class!

- Nashville, TN - februari 2011 -
Quink's performance at Auburn University as a quartet was exquisite. Blend and balance from the ensemble were excellent and the individual voices were well-suited to the literature. The repertoire of madrigals, part songs, and folk songs was interesting and varied providing a tour through the history of four-part vocal repertoire so often performed by choirs. The entire performance exhibited extraordinary musicality and provided an ethereal experience for the audience. In addition the masterclass provided by the four singers of Quink was affirming and informative for our students. Students exhibited immediate improvement and engagement in their performance with the encouraging remarks from the singers of Quink.

- Auburn, AL - februari 2011 -
"Creative and fascinating program performed with superb balance, intonation and musicianship. This is a consummate vocal ensemble, on par with the very best a cappella vocal ensembles today." Quink brought a breath of spring to a cold winter evening in Sewanee, TN., presenting a beautiful array of popular and lesser-known works. Particularly captivating were the juxtaposed songs of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. The vocal colors elicited by Quink brought subtle shading to the range of emotional content contained in these two song sets.

- Sewanee, TN - februari 2011 -
Heel jammer dat deze woorden u pas na de feestdagen bereiken want op deze CD valt veel te genieten in repertoire dat nu eens interessanter is dan op menige obligate kerstspecial vaak wordt opgenomen. Maar volgend jaar wordt het ongetwijfeld wéér Kerstmis en kunt u bij de boom gelukzalig luisteren naar de superieure ensemblezang van - hoog naar laag - Marjon Strijk, Mariëtte oelderik, Elsbeth Gerritsen, Harry van Berne en Kees Jan de Koning. Geacheveerd soepel, gespitst op elke nuance van elk muzikaal idioom zonder te vervallen in kunstjes en maniertjes. Een staalkaart aan perioden en stijlen tovert Quink ons voor van laudes uit de dertiende en veertiende eeuw via liederen uit de renaissance van de Spanjaard Francisco Guerrero die ook de titelsong van de schijf levert, traditionals uit Engeland, Frankrijk en Nederland (verrassende zettingen van Alphons Vranken in O kerstnacht, schooner dan de dagen en van Jetse Bremer) tot de Christmas Song van Mel Tormé (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire) en Have Yourself a merry little Christmas. En altijd stijlzuiver, van de oudste religieuze muziek tot de sophisticated close harmony van vandaag. Een heel nadrukkelijke aanrader.

- Luister - februari 2009 -
Bezocht: optreden Quink, donderdag 19 december 2008
Plaats: Koetshuis Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt

Toen de vijf zangers van de a cappella-groep Quink de tonen inzetten voor het eerste lied, voelde je de sensatie van het samenvallen van plaats, tijdstip en muziek. Bovenop de resten van de oude abdij Mariënweerd, klonken daar de sacrale klanken van de oude middeleeuwse Lauden, de gezangen die van oudsher werden gezongen in de gewijde ruimten van kerken, kloosters en abdijen. Zó zuiver en zó puur gezongen, dat je zou vermoeden dat de tijd heeft stilgestaan. In het sfeervolle Koetshuis waren zo'n 120 mensen getuige van een unieke muzikale belevenis. Daaronder veel vrienden van Quink, dat al dertig jaar in wisselende samenstelling zingt. Quink vertolkte in ruim anderhalf uur het hele oeuvre van de nieuwe cd, 'A un niño llorando’. De plaat bevat kerstrepertoire uit verschillende landen en uit alle tijden. Zoals gezegd vanuit de donkere Middeleeuwen en de Spaanse renaissance, Nederlandse liederen met die heerlijke oude teksten ('Laat ons met harten reine' en 'Het komet een schip geladen’, op arrangementen van o.a. J. Bremer), Engelse traditionals en Carols en het onvergetelijk Amerikaans swingende 'Follow that star’ van Mel Torm. Nergens een inzinking, nergens een dissonant. Van sopraan-hoogte tot bariton-diepte: loepzuiver, maar dat niet alleen. Ook werd gepassioneerd en met liefde gezongen. Ernst-Daniël Smid was uitgenodigd om het eerste exemplaar van de nieuwe cd in ontvangst te nemen. Zijn lovende woorden vertolkten de gevoelens van alle aanwezigen. Alleen zingen is al moeilijk, met zijn vijven is een ware kunst. Quink beheerst deze Zangkunst tot in het kleinste detail. Quink: dank jullie wel voor deze heerlijke muzikale avond. Het was van absoluut wereldniveau! Mariënwaerdt: ga zo door! Het waren waarachtig heerlijke klanken.

Gert de Kruijff

- Gert de Kruijff - december 2008 -
De vocalisten excelleren zonder uitzondering in de bijzondere kunst van het begrip voor de toonkleuren van ieder ensemblelid, een eigenschap die alleen binnen het bereik van echt goede musici ligt en zich hier uitstrekt van het complexe contrapunt tot homofone a capella zang. Zij creëren met elkaar een naadloos geheel van een bijna instrumentale evocatieve reikwijdte, met superieure intonatie, goed gedoseerd vibrato en een ware pracht van timbres. Dit is typisch zo'n groep die in middeleeuwse muziek net zo'n diepe indruk weet te maken als in de lichte muze.

- HIFI.nl - juli 2006 -
Niet voor niets geniet QUINK internationaal een bijzondere reputatie. De groep is samengesteld uit vijf karaktervolle stemmen die samen in staat zijn een magistraal geluid te produceren. Daarmee doet ze er alles aan om a cappella muziek uit de afgelopen zes eeuwen springlevend voor het voetlicht te brengen. Met succes. Ondeugende liefdesliedjes vormden gisteravond de hoofdmoot. Let wel: liedjes die vier- tot vijfhonderd jaar geleden al bedacht zijn. Bij QUINK klinken ze nog altijd niet stoffig of ouderwets. Met hier en daar een vleugje theater schitteren de muzikale pareltjes als nooit tevoren. Maar het zijn vooral de muzikale kwaliteiten van de vijf die ervoor zorgen dat je ademloos zit te luisteren. Elk lied krijgt zijn eigen speciale behandeling zodat QUINK alle aanwezige talenten enthousiast kan botvieren.

- De Gelderlander - februari 2007 -
The excellent sense of style, the sovereign mechanical mastery and graphically clear instrumental sound were impressive, right from the beginning.

- Helsingin Sanomat -
The musicians of Quink, a splendid vocal quintet from The Netherlands, gave a nice sampling of 16th century madrigals ... with a delightful blend of joy and despair.

- The Washington Post -
In einem treibenden Tempo traf hier alles zusammen, was die menschliche Stimme zu geben vermag: ein Stück voller Witz, in der technischen Realisation wohl nicht mehr
zu übertreffen.

- Westfälisches Volksblatt -
In Klassik Heute (juni 2006) is de CD-opname van de Petite Messe Solennelle gewaardeerd met de hoogste onderscheidingen: een 10 voor het niveau van de musici, een 10 voor de opnamekwaliteit en eveneens een 10 voor de totale indruk. Uit de bijbehorende recensie:
"Dass das exzellente holländische QUINK -ensemble mit seinen acht Sängern chorisch den Besetzungsvorstellungen des italienischen Opern-Heroen bei der Messe Solennelle originär zu folgen bereit ist und auf der 'orchestralen' Ebene auf Instrumenten aus den Jahren 1860 bis 1880 zurückgreift, ermöglicht optimale Voraussetzungen. Auch die Realisierung der solistischen Parts aus dem Quink-Ensembles heraus zeitigt keine nennenswerte Abstriche. Im Gegenteil: die Produktion gewinnt dadurch noch an Stimmigkeit und Homogenität.

- Klassik Heute - juni 2006 -
Quink tackled its most substantial offering, Benjamin Britten’s “Hymn to St. Cecilia”, with care and sensitivity, each poignant phrase more doleful than the last. Its subtle, delicate tonal shifts were impeccably executed.

- The Birmingham News -
Deze Petite Messe Solennelle komt zelden zo dichtbij als in de nieuwe versie van het vijfkoppige vocaal ensemble Quink. Een dirigent was er niet bij nodig.

- De Telegraaf -
Petite Messe Solennelle - Rossini
Vocaal Ensemble Quink
Challenge CC72157 / 2CD
...De huidige uitvoering benadert de originele bij Rossini thuis: acht zangers die ook de soli voor hun rekening nemen, twee pianisten en een harmoniumspeler.

- Klassieke Zaken - juni 2006 -
The singers showed impressive understanding of one another's tone colours and demonstrated superior ensemble work.

- The Strait Times, 5-12-2006 -
CD Petite Messe Solennelle - Rossini
Het Nederlandse, maar vooral in het buitenland befaamde vocaal ensemble Quink werd voor de gelegenheid uitgebreid van vijf naar acht stemmen, die zowel de koor als de veeleisende solopartijen voor hun rekening nemen. Zij slagen er perfect in de balans te vinden tussen virtuositeit en lichtheid, essentieel bij deze muziek. Pianoduo Leo van Doeslaar en Wyneke Jordans speelt op twee authentieke Pleyelvleugels. Daar komt vaak prachtig het door Dirk Luijmes bespeelde Victor Mustel kunstharmonium doorheen, met dramatisch effect. Een mooi oud, waterig geluid, dat heel authentiek overkomt.

- Audio nieuws, 27-7-2006 -
Op dit moment is er geen mooiere opname van de Petite Messe Solennelle van Rossini en er zijn er nogal wat........ Een gedurfde uitspraak? Nee! Als u deze opname heeft beleefd kan het niet anders dan dat u het met mij eens bent. Er wordt hier gemusiceerd met een hoofdletter! Alle details komen komen aan het licht. Zowel de zangers (voor deze gelegenheid met 3 zangers uitgebreid) als de instrumentalisten laten zich van hun beste kant horen. de verhouding tussen zangers, piano's en harmonium is perfect. Vaak is het harmonium 'achtergesteld', maar hier voert iedereen een gelijke strijd. Glashelder en loepzuiver.

VOX Humana - september 2006

- VOX Humana - september 2006 -
Marjon Strijk
Elsbeth Gerritsen
Harry van Berne
Kees Jan de Koning