When I first heard these works, I did not even know that Ernest Bloch had written string quartets. Violin Concerto, Israel Symphony, the cello-evergreen Schelomo: yes. And good; all of it. But I was not prepared for this stunning discovery. In his four (of five--the fifth having been composed after this record was made) string quartets--the 2nd perhaps the primus inter pares--he gives Shostakovich a run for his money with his ravishingly rhythmic, increasingly chromatic style. Composed in 1916, 1945, 1952, and 1953, this music has a kick to it that belies the mellow style of Schelomo and the age of these 1954 mono recordings. Anyone wondering where the famous "Decca sound" came from might well start here. Anyone with even the faintest interest in 20th-century chamber music has a duty to him/herself to explore this budget-priced double CD. Dedicated to one composer, unearthing masterpieces, splendidly played, eerily good sound: this is my favorite of the Decca Original Masters series... it's a stunning release, and it's a must-have for anyone who enjoys Shostakovich, Bartok, Villa-Lobos, or Rawsthorne quartets.