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Bartók: The String Quartets (2 CDs)

Takács Quartet Audio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio CD (16 Mar 1998)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B0000042GU
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,394 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Disc 1:

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Bartók: String Quartet No.1, Sz. 40 (Op.7) - 1. Lento 9:14Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Bartók: String Quartet No.1, Sz. 40 (Op.7) - 2. Allegretto 8:06Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Bartók: String Quartet No.1, Sz. 40 (Op.7) - 3. Introduzione. Allegro - Allegro vivace10:55Ł1.49  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Bartók: String Quartet No.3, Sz. 85 - 1. Prima parte (Moderato) 4:50Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Bartók: String Quartet No.3, Sz. 85 - 2. Seconda parte (Allegro) 5:31Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Bartók: String Quartet No.3, Sz. 85 - 3. Ricapitolazione della prima parte (Moderato) 4:56Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Bartók: String Quartet No.5, Sz. 102 - 1. Allegro 7:28Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Bartók: String Quartet No.5, Sz. 102 - 2. Adagio molto 6:04Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Bartók: String Quartet No.5, Sz. 102 - 3. Scherzo 4:55Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Bartók: String Quartet No.5, Sz. 102 - 4. Andante 4:49Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Bartók: String Quartet No.5, Sz. 102 - 5. Finale 6:53Ł0.79  Buy MP3 

Disc 2:

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Bartók: String Quartet No.2, Sz. 67 (Op.17) - 1. Moderato 9:41Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Bartók: String Quartet No.2, Sz. 67 (Op.17) - 2. Allegro molto capriccioso 7:15Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Bartók: String Quartet No.2, Sz. 67 (Op.17) - 3. Lento 8:45Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Bartók: String Quartet No.4, Sz. 91 - 1. Allegro 5:56Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Bartók: String Quartet No.4, Sz. 91 - 2. Prestissimo, con sordino 2:39Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Bartók: String Quartet No.4, Sz. 91 - 3. Non troppo lento 5:27Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Bartók: String Quartet No.4, Sz. 91 - 4. Allegretto pizzicato 2:36Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Bartók: String Quartet No.4, Sz. 91 - 5. Allegro molto 5:32Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Bartók: String Quartet No.6, Sz. 114 - 1. Mesto - Vivace 7:12Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Bartók: String Quartet No.6, Sz. 114 - 2. Mesto - Marcia 7:45Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Bartók: String Quartet No.6, Sz. 114 - 3. Mesto - Burletta (Moderato) 7:20Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Bartók: String Quartet No.6, Sz. 114 - 4. Mesto 6:53Ł0.79  Buy MP3 

Customer Reviews

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mind blowing stuff 14 Feb 2008
Format:Audio CD
Just listened to my recently delivered recording of these masterpieces. My God! This is the most intense and passionate music I think I've ever heard. Just listen to the final movement of no. 3. This music is staggering in its inventiveness; the variety of timbres and mood that Bartok manages to wring out of 2 violins, a viola and a cello is amazing. Ideas just flow out of each other effortlessly. The playing is awesome too. Listening to this music, there are times when I think something has to give, so intense is the experience. But it doesn't: these are beautiful performances- a must for anybody who is interested in the expressive possibilities of music.By the way, this ain't background music. It demands to be listened to.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars energy and warmth 12 Aug 2002
By tony
Format:Audio CD
If you are unused to listening to music of this sort this CD is a wonderful way to enter deeper into a beautiful musical world. The playing seems to me faultless and its intensity staggering. The contrasts between the energetic and sometimes strident sections and the delicately ethereal backdrops are marvellously reproduced and at times it's fascinating to hear the distinctive Hungarian folk harmonies portrayed with such naturalness by these immensely talented musicians. You might gather I recommend it!
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated 18 Oct 2008
By Geoff
Format:Audio CD
This recent recording by the Takacs Quartet is very impressive technically but for me fails to get to the heart of these elusive quartets.

The performances themselves are beyond criticism in the apparent ease with which they negotiate this famously thorny music. However that's where the doubts start to creep in because the Takacs sound too studied and play in a big-boned way that robs the music of much of it's intimacy.

The performers are also recorded at too much distance and with too much reverberation for my taste. A recent Gramophone reviewer called it 'swimmy' and I think that aptly sums up the quality of loosing detail that you have in this set.

As the perfect companions in this music I would choose the Vegh Quartet (on Naive - Bartok - String Quartets Complete) or possibly the Hungarian Quartet (DG - Bartók: 6 String Quartets). Both are justly famous and really have this music in their blood. The recordings are both first rate too and close enough to hear the grit in their playing. They are both also available at at least half the price of this set.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible performances in the Vegh Qt tradition... 16 Jan 2001
By C. Noble - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
For years I was a card-carrying devotee of the Emerson Quartet's Grammy Award-winning set of these quartets on Deutsche Grammophon. I still love the ESQ's performances: they're wonderfully rhythmic in the more rigid sense of the word, amazingly muscular and clear. The recording is likewise almost microscopically close -- there's no place to hide, and the ESQ has nothing to hide, the performances set a high-water mark of technical perfection. Then I picked up the Takacs Quartet's set. Whereas the ESQ readings come in the tradition of the Juilliard Quartet's groundbreaking set(s), with a very literal interpretative view, the Takacs take the more gypsy-informed approach, more in the vein of the celebrated Vegh Quartet. There is a sense of color and fantasy which I'd previously thought lacking in some of the Bartok quartets, at least in the performances I'd heard live and on CD. The Takacs bring such authority to these pieces, and such a sense of wonder and joy, too. The sound is exemplary, but not with the in-your-face closeness of the DG set. It's like listening to a live concert in a nicely (but not overly) reverberant hall. Whatever set(s) you may already own, or if you're looking for a fabulous introduction to these incredible masterpieces of the string quartet literature, buy this set now -- you will not be disappointed!
65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, they get it 31 Aug 2005
By Cade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Bartok has been called many things, but one thing I wish he would be called more often is a mystic of music. In my over-educated opinion, that is what he was, and that dominated him as a composer, a pianist, an ethnomusicologist and a pedagogue. The problem is that many performers come to this music very naive or, worse, dismissive of this quality of Bartok's genius, and focus too heavily on technical apsects. The result is obvious: a failure to give a proper and authentic voice to the music.

I am sympathetic to the dilemma of any performer tackling these quartets - these are very demanding on a technical level alone. But this does not mean their beauty resides purely in that facet, nor does it excuse any performer for rendering these as a technical or academic exercise. Suffice to say, some performers just don't "get it," and thus ought not attempt these works, if they are not able to met the technical challenge they present and then transcend it in spirit to articulate their fuller beauty.

As a musician who's studied Bartok academically, I am very aware on an intellectual level of how these works relate to Bartok's studies in folk music, and I can easily pick out and analyze his inversions and sequences of folk motifs that populate these works. However, all too often this is something not easily *heard* by the average listener - a tragic irony, seeing much of Bartok's work is so rooted in folk music, which is possibly the most accessible of music idioms. Sadly, this is a mystic's lot: they experience something that is univerally accessible, yet in the process of articulating that experience, those first recieving the message miss the point, get destracted by superficial details, and obscure the beauty and truth of the mystic's message for everyone else. Luckily, music can speak for itself - if the performer doesn't get in the way. So if the performer understands, either consciously or intuitively, that there is a *heart* to these works beyond what he sees written so precisely and techinically on the page (i.e. "gets it"), and strives to articulate this, then that engimatic mysicism of Bartok is unlocked and becomes readily accessible to anyone willing to peer into it.

Fortunately and thankfully, the Takacs Quartet "get it." This is very likely the finest performance of these quartets ever recorded. Without repeating too much of what other reviewers have already said, there is a very genuine spirit and superior command to the Takacs Quartet's performance that makes the very challenging and highly technical quality of these quartets transparent so to reveal, rather than obscure, Bartok's vision. They open up Bartok's quartets in a rare way that allow the listener to "live" inside them, and glaze readily upon their beauty, possibly very closely to how Bartok originally envisioned it. I listened to this recording immediately after listening the 1960's recording by the Novak Quartet, and the difference was astounding. It only vindicated my long standing opinion that Bartok was indeed a mystic of music, and that his unique and very challenging compositions offer much, much more (and for a wider audience) than one might assume from a less inspired performance.

Absolutey, unequivocally recommended.
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth and fire, a powerful Bartok cycle! 15 Aug 2001
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The Takacs Quartet has produced a powerful version of Bartok's string quartets, the great cycle of the early 20th century. They play in the gypsy style of the Vegh Quartet, rough, earthy, and fiery by turns. Heavier, thicker, and more passionate than many non-Hungarian interpretations, this London Records set is definitive, superbly recorded and mastered in 1996 with amazing separation and clarity of the four instruments, including the cello with a strong bottom. Superb, extensive liner notes describe each quartet and how it was written.

The 3rd, 4th and 5th quartets are sheer modernist genius. Bartok was inspired by hearing Berg's new "Lyric Suite" in 1927, and wrote his Third and Fourth quartets in response. The 1st and 2nd are less innovative -- the 1st is in the romantic tradition. The Fourth and Fifth both use palindrome structures, with a central movement and the others grouped around it in layers. The 6th is calm and tragic, written as Bartok prepared to leave Hungary for the USA.

String Quartet No. 1 (1907-09) 28'18
String Quartet No. 2 (1915-17) 25'47
String Quartet No. 3 (1927) 15'18
String Quartet No. 4 (1928) 22'24
String Quartet No. 5 (1934) 30'26
String Quartet No. 6 (1939) 29'15

Bartok was a great modernist, and very influential, but less so than his peers Stravinsky or Schoenberg because, as Milton Babbitt once complained, his innovations tended to be particular to each composition rather than a system like Schoenberg's 12-tone music. Bartok famously drew on Hungarian folk music, and his use of modal scales gives his music a uniquely odd quality in contrast to standard tonality, but he emphatically maintained that his music was tonal. The key was his mixing of modes, resulting in polytonality. What Bartok brought from the classical tradition was the strong influence of Liszt, Debussy, and Beethoven (thanks to the excellent November 1945 article from "The Musical Times").

Unfortunately this great set is currently out of print. While waiting for it to be reissued, a great alternative cycle in the Hungarian tradition is the Keller Quartet, a set recorded in 1993-94.

[UPDATED 5/29/13]
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brav-issimo! 4 July 2000
By "macronecole" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I have several recordings of Bartok's quartets and have attended several performances of them, and I have to say this is one of, if not, the best recording of the quartets. My opinion is also strongly influenced by my attendance at the performance of all 6 quartets by the Takacs String Quartet last fall; a performance I will not soon forget. Their intensity was incredibly palpable and, after comparing that performance to another performed by the Julliard String Quartet, the Takacs blow them out of the water! Not that I'm disregarding the enormous prowess of the Julliard quartet, but in both performance and recording, there was an aspect of genuine involvement found in the Takacs that lacked in the Julliard; the latter in recorded and live performance seemed almost aloof (perhaps from many years of performance, which is definitely commendable, as they were the first to perform the whole cycle here in the U.S.). The editorial review was right: this could very well become a standard with regard to Bartok's quartet recordings.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The third way. 4 Oct 2005
By Paco Yáńez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I've recently bought this cycle, after having or listening those by Tokyo String Quartet (DG & RCA), Hagen Quartett (DG), Alban Berg Quartett (EMI), Vegh Qt (Auvidis) and some other versions played by outstanding quartets, like the glorius Arditti Quartet's recording of the Fourth Quartet in Grammavision label.

If I'm thinking about a third way is because Takács shows a middle interpretation between the very hungarian performings of the Vegh Qt and the very "international" or "western" playing of the Tokyo Qt, ABQ or Hagen Qt versions. The Takács Quartet that play in this CD box is formed by musicians from the western tradition and hungarian born players, 50%; something you can feel in their interpretation, which is a bit more objective than Takács' first recording released by Hungaroton, with more hungarian players in the quartet, but still with the taste of the hungarian Bartók tradition, much more close to the popular and folk reminiscences of his music.

I don't hear in this performings the amazing precision of the Tokyo String Quartet in every pizzicatti, glissandi, or technical resource of the works; but, on the other hand, I can say that the musicality and folk sense of some parts it's better done in this Decca recording, which looks much more to the origin of some chords in the folk hungarian music which Bartók so deep has studied. Takács (Decca) bring a more aggressive version, something that makes very complex to have the precision of the more refine and "distant" Tokyo performings. Anyway, technically it's marvellous too, and that's the reason why I give them 4 stars... 5 stars only in heaven...

The conclusion is we are listening a very good performances of the cycle, in style and technique, one of the key works in this genre along the XXth Century; probably between the better.
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