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Elliott Carter - String Quartets Nos. 2, 3 & 4 CD

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Performer: Pacifica Quartet
  • Composer: Elliott Carter
  • Audio CD (2 Feb. 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B001NZA04M
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,693 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Quatuors à cordes n°2 à 4 / Quatuor Pacifica (Simin Ganatra, violon I - Sibbi Bernhardsson, violon II - Masumi Per Rostad, alto - Brandon Vamos, violoncelle)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Wonderful, complex writing, both moving and stimulating, from this American master. Will reward many repeated listenings. The performance by the Pacifica Quartet is impecable, very much in the spirit of the music.
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This music is tough to listen to but surely very significant. It rewards carfull listening with a sense of humanity and beauty that, for me, echos the late quartets of Beethoven; admittedly in a more complex idiom. The playing of the Pacifia Quartet is beautiful and I probably prefer it to an equivalent recording by he Julliard Quartet.
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Disappointing. Rather uninspiring.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98b36660) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x986b06b4) out of 5 stars Elliott Carter's String Quartets on Naxos 28 Mar. 2009
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
To celebrate Elliott Carter's 100th birthday (2008), the Pacifica Quartet undertook the formidable task of recording the composer's five string quartets on the budget-priced Naxos label. The first recording which included the first and the fifth quartet proved successful indeed for music of such bristling complexity. The recording received a well-deserved Grammy Award. This second CD, which includes quartets 2,3, and 4 completes the cycle. It is on the same high level as the first CD. The Pacifica Quartet has been playing together since 1994. It consists of Simin Ganatra and Bibbi Bernhardsson, violins, Masumi Per Rostad, viola, and Brandon Vamos, cello. The quartet is to be commended for this effort in recording Carter's quartets.

Elliott Carter's quartets span 44 years, with the first quartet dating from 1951 and the fifth quartet composed in 1995. Each of the five quartets has its own individual character and each requires careful listening. The first quartet is the longest of the five. It established Carter as a modernist composer. The final quartet is an almost divertimento-like work, lighter than its predecessors. The second, third, and fourth quartets each are deeply challenging. They are modernist works of high intellect and emotion. Each of these works is less than one-half hour in length, but they are dense and highly concentrated. The music is atonal with highly shifting and varied rhythms, textures, and moods. Carter uses each instrument, and the entire ensemble, in original and idiosyncratic ways.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning string quartet no. 2 (1959)
became known for its radically individualistic treatment of the four instruments, which many listeners took as capturing the separateness and individualism of modern life. Each instrument plays in its own tempo and with its own characteristics, seemingly oblivious to its companions. The work is less than 25 minutes in duration and is in nine short movements. In the even-numbered movements, marked by roman numerals and by a tempo indication (which is only a loose guide as tempos shift frequently) the four instruments play with each voice competing with and commenting on each other. The sixth and eighth movements are the longest in the work and evidence a difficult, passionate conversation among the four separate voices. The third, fifth, and seventh movement consist of short, cadenza passages for each instrument, viola, cello and violin, with, in each case, the remaining instruments commenting on and fighting against the leader. The work begins with a brief opening introduction which presents the four voices of the quartet and their characteristics, and it ends with a "conclusion" in which each voice fades away.

The string quartet no. 3 (1971) also received a Pulitzer Prize. This is the shortest (22 minutes) and probably the most challenging quartet of the three. Carter groups the ensemble into two "duos". Duo I consists of the second violin and the viola, and Carter directs them to play with rubato and expressive freedom. Duo II consists of the first violin and cello which play in strict time. The work is in six movements and both Duo I and Duo II play a number of themes against each other throughout the work. Duo I plays four blocks of music, marked Furioso, Leggerissimo, Andante expressivo, Giocoso. Duo II plays blocks marked Maestoso, Grazioso, Giusto, mecanico, Scorrevole [a scherzo],Largo tranquillo, and Appasionato. In the six movements, each Duo sometimes plays alone, but more often a block from one Duo is juxtaposed against a block from the other Duo making a shifting movement of sound. For example, the work opens with the Maestoso passage of Duo II playing against the Furioso of Duo I. The final movement opens with the Scorrevole of Duo II played against the Furioso of Duo I. The work evolves with the various combinations of four and six against each other. It is an extraordinary difficult piece to perform and to hear but highly rewarding. (I thought of the poetic form known as a Sestina as a loose analogy. In a sestina, the words which conclude each of the six lines of a stanza move from one line to another in a fixed pattern -- as do, in a way, the various themes of Duo I and Duo II in this quartet.

The final quartet on this CD, quartet no. 4 (1986) is somewhat more traditional in form than its companions. This work is in four movements, marked Appassionato, Scherzando, Lento, and Presto, and is about 28 minutes in length. Carter himself contrasted the theme of this work with that of quartet no. 2. While the former quartet stressed individualism in the four voices, in the latter quartet Carter tried to capture "the democratic attitude in which each member of a society maintains his or her own identity while cooperating in a common effort." The opening movement features a searing theme in the first violin which is supported by the other three members of the quartet. The second movement is a hushed scherzo in which all four voices participate. The third movement is highly intense with deep, interwoven harmonies. The movement is also punctuated by long pauses which is one of the hallmarks of this work. The finale too is marked by long, dramatic silences and by the contrasts between presto passages and the much slower, meditative sections. This quartet is difficult, but it may be the most accessible of Carter's five quartets to the new listener.

Over the years, I have learned a great deal about American music from Naxos's "American classics" series. This CD, together with the companion CD of Carter's first and fifth string quartets offer the adventurous listener an outstanding opportunity to get to know the work of a major American composer.

Total time: 74:15

Robin Friedman
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x986b0900) out of 5 stars Sometimes you really, really get your money's worth... 25 Aug. 2009
By Personne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Perhaps, in some golden future, the catalog will be overflowing with recordings of the Carter Quartets. I'm willing to bet that the Pacifica's recordings will still be among the favorites. This young group (in their thirties by the look of the CD art) understand the music and they know how to pull it off. I'll focus on the Third Quartet, which is as difficult to play as anything in the literature. There are multiple asynchronies in the piece: a pair of instruments joining up for a quiet encounter while the other pair rages along in an entirely different world. Every seeming combination of music and instrument faces off at some point in a condensed twenty minutes. As with the best of Ives, the listener may focus on a part or on the whole. For this music to be played properly, each part must be played with conviction and at a level that allows the other parts to be heard. That's difficult enough in the standard repertory. With Carter, the demands are much greater. In this recording, languid or quiet passages proceed without being hurried by the mayhem going on elsewhere. That requires considerable musical focus.

Music isn't (or shouldn't be) a competitive sport. But sometimes comparisons can be illuminating. I've enjoyed the Arditti Quartet's recording of the first four Carter quartets for some time. But I have come to prefer the recordings by the Pacifica. They are less forced, less harsh, and more subtly layered.

The recording itself is quite nice. It's in a space that's appropriate for chamber music: just the right balance of ambience and direct sound. The details of the performance are clear without being clinical. I hope that the Pacifica and Naxos team up for more recordings. Perhaps they could start with Dutilleux and Schoenberg...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x986b08c4) out of 5 stars Carter is back on my radar! 29 May 2013
By brotagonist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I used to have the Arditti Quartet set of the first 4 string quartets on Etcetera, but it seemed distant. I never warmed to it. Upon learning of this set of all 5 string quartets, the other half being String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5, I decided to give Carter another go. Although American, these string quartets have an unmistakable European sound, but I am unable to place them exactly. That is their appeal -- that they fit into the middle to latter Twentieth Century string quartet idiom, yet remain unplaceable and distinct. With these renditions by the Pacifica Quartet, Carter is back on my radar!
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x986b0ea0) out of 5 stars You Won't Even Believe It 2 April 2009
By S. T. Fine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It would be difficult to recommend this album highly enough. For one thing, the repertoire is incredible. In my opinion, along with Messrs. Bartok, Beethoven, and Haydn, Mr. Carter is one of the most brilliant composers of the genre. These quartets are, however, phenomenally difficult to comprehend and perform. And, because of this, they seldom are well-enough executed for audience enjoyment.

Here though (and no disrespect to the Arditti Quartet, who did a fine job), we have the best renditions of these works. Simin, Sibbi, Masumi, & Brandon: Congratulations and Thank You!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9880f0d8) out of 5 stars Smokin' performances 14 Jan. 2010
By Matt Rouge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I'm a big fan of the Carter quartets, and this quartet, as the other reviews indicate, does an absolutely brilliant job. I heard Carter's fourth quartet for the first time on this CD. Absolutely incredible. A must-buy for the lover of string quartets!
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