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Arditti String Quartet

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Product details

  • Audio CD (7 Oct. 2013)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Etcetera
  • ASIN: B0007RUT4S
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 442,593 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By animalimitata on 1 Mar. 2006
This is fantastically engaging music performed to the highest standard. Carter's First Quartet is a celebrated break-through piece of his, but really all the quartets are fascinating and involving, and actually not as 'difficult' to the un- or less-trained ear as modernist essays in this genre are sometimes suspected to be. This label (Etcetera) disappeared and came back - I suggest that the outlay on this disk is well worth making before it disappears again. As a 'two-fer' it is a bargain - a very exciting bargain in fact and a real treat for the Carter beginner or enthusiast.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Sept. 2010
Verified Purchase
As key compositions and iconic performances of the late twentieth century canon, it is not my place, as a humble listener, to issue a verdict on their merit or significance. Thus my three stars is merely intended to convey a crude estimate of my own present relationship with the works, one I know will in all probability change over time. It is not intended as any kind of inducement, one way or another, to prospective purchasers. So, to what purpose is my review? Merely the hope that I might be able to give some hints and pointers to others who may wish to wander down this path.

These are extreme and difficult works that will only be of interest to the most adventurous and wide-eared of listeners. I myself am no stranger to such works and have plenty of experience of persisting with seemingly incomprehensible musical material until some kind of eureka moment transpires. Numerous works by Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, Barry and the like have eventually succumbed to my patience. I thought I had a eureka moment with String Quartet No.1 on this disc the other day. Certainly I have acquired habits of listening that allow me to follow along without my attention simply sliding off its sheer and obstinate surfaces. And certainly those habits seem to have given me some traction with the later works as well. But while I now know what I think about these works, I'm still not sure what I feel.

The essence of these works is their unbroken polyrhythmicity. Throughout them each instrument is moving at a distinct tempo, with whatever underlying common pulse there might be more or less indiscernible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Carter's quartets, the finest of the late 20th century! 12 Aug. 2005
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
The Arditti Quartet was the first to record Elliott Carter's first four string quartets -- this is the reissue of those recordings, originally on two separate discs, released in 1989. No remastering has been done, only the packaging is improved, with an elegant slimline disc, new cover art, and some new photos. The original liner notes on the quartets by David Harvey are retained, but there is a brief update on the Arditti Quartet.

The Arditti Quartet's Carter is more fiery and energetic than the Juilliard Quartet's (see my review). By comparison, the Ardittis sound a bit crazed and frenetic. Comparing in the other direction, the Juilliards sound a bit stolid and pompous. To put it in more positive terms, the JQ version is weightier, more serious. The Sony disc has better sound quality, and much more extensive liner notes. But this recording is a must both for devotees of Elliott Carter, and for devotees of the Arditti Quartet.

It seems that now this is the set that is unavailable, and the Juilliard Quartet's 1991 recordings have been made available via Arkiv Music. The young Pacifica Quartet has since recorded all five of Carter's quartets for Naxos. If you want to hear the finest cycle of string quartets of the late 20th century, any of the three cycles is superb!

[UPDATED 7/1/13]
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1+3:excellent 2+4:cerebral 25 Oct. 2005
By Peter Heddon - Published on Amazon.com
Quartets 1 and 3 are the more immediately exciting.The latter might be fiendishly difficult to negotiate with the quartet divided into a pair of contrasting duos (never playing the same material) but the results are not in the least bit dry.I love the pizzicato writing which gets going after the rampaging opening.Intonation is frequently askew but the perfrormance has plenty of attack.

No.1 nearly breaks out into Shostakovich territory 3minutes into the last movement.This is the most visionary of the quartets.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Carter's string quartets are often excellent examples of his original stylings in harmony and rhythm 4 Dec. 2008
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Elliott Carter's string quartets have come at key moments of his career and often have heralded some important stylistic evolution. That's why this recording where the Arditti Quartet performs is so important for fans of the composer. The lineup of the Ardittis here are Irvine Arditti and David Alberman on violins, Levine Andrade on viola, and Rohan de Saram on cello.

The String Quartet No. 1 (1951) marked the beginning of Carter's mature career as a brazen modernist. Cast in three movements, this is music constantly on slippery metrical slopes with astringent harmonies. But what sounds so wild and out there at the beginning of hearing this collection sounds remarkably tame and traditional if you go back to it after hearing the later string quartets, especially the last movement "Variations" which approaches the "kinder, gentler modernists" who arose in the '70s and '80s.

It's with the String Quartet No. 2 (1959) that we find Carter's mature style, where instrumental lines are maximally separated in order to create the atmosphere of a dialogue. This is often called Carter's masterpiece, and it won a load of prizes, but I just don't enjoy it much at all. It just meanders. However, the String Quartet No. 3 (1971) is very impressive. It has the ensemble seated apart, split into two duos (violin and viola, violin and cello) which stay entirely in their own metrical and harmonic universes. It is a piece of constant action, sure to entertain if you are a fan of Carter's other busy pieces like the Piano Concerto. The String Quartet No. 4 (1986) has often been called the most enigmatic of all Carter's quartets, but I like it a lot. Though cast in a single movement, it consists of many varied sections, and abounds in references to the classical tradition. This work of Carter's late period also has much clearer textures, but with the same sense of rhythmic zest.

Elliott Carter's string quartets are often touted as the quartets to beat all others in the latter half of the 20th century, but I warn you that not all will find these the cat's meow, even if you enjoy a steady diet of modernism. Personally, I get more from Per Norgard's Fifth, Gubaidulina's Second, or Rihm's Third than any of the Carter quartets. And in fact, I find Carter's most entertaining string quartet to be the Fifth, which appeared a few years after this recording (the Ardittis perform it on a Naive/Montaigne disc). That's why I give the collection four starts instead of five, to try to tone down the hype.
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