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Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very good performance, 3 April 2011
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This review is from: Bartok : String Quartets Nos 1 - 6 [Complete] - Apex (Audio CD)
I'm not a musician, so if you are one, please bear that in mind: I cannot give musical analysis. That said, I can only compare this performance with the performance that outstrips everything I have heard. That is the the version by the Tokyo String Quartet. That performance gets hold of and owns the music. These quartets are not only difficult to perform, they are also somewhat difficult for a layman to appreciate. But I find that a great composer's work always has the quality that pulls the ignorant listener in. For an example other than Bartok, Alfred Schnittke work mesmerises at first hearing, even if you don't know where it's going and have little idea where it's been at the conclusion. Like Schnittke, Bartok is completely rewarding. What I find deeply satisfying is the attack and dynamics of the Tokyo Quartet's delivery, it's unending brilliance. And where the music is, shall we say, tender, it is tender with absolute conviction. There is no mental softening in the players at such times: they are strict to what these moments demand - I think because the ideas of how the music should be played are embedded in each player, and that they have got it right, and they know it. Their performance is unending delight, and, for such as myself, constantly illuminating. The Keller Quartet does not match this performance. Neither does that of the Emerson Quartet. Just my opinion, of course. A couple of examples: in the first quartet there's a sequence where the cello is to be played very loudly, and I feel the Keller overdo this somewhat, so that it interferes with the music's progression, it seems to me; and in one of the middle quartets, the 4th or the 5th, there comes a moment when the brilliance of the music gives way to something (it has always seemed to me) that might be played by street musicians: this idea of Bartok's, whatever he means by it, is rigorously held by the Tokyo, whereas the Keller perhaps allow the idea to drift too far towards the somewhat unsophisticated world it is perhaps intended to suggest. But the Keller's performance is very good and I like it very much, plus it has the attraction of a low price. The performance by the Emerson String Quartet is also excellent, and I would recommend both to anyone; but my top recommendation would be that of the Tokyo String Quartet. I hope this is some help.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jun 2015 18:53:54 BDT
Like you, I have heard many different recordings of these marvellous works - my personal favourites are (very close together!) Tokyo on DG 1970s, Juilliard on CBS 1963, Fine Arts on Saga (1960s?), New Hungarian Quartet on Vox, Eder Quartet on Warner. My least favourite? Takacs on Decca, because the over-reverberant sound makes them sound more lie a chamber orchestra!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2015 12:50:54 BDT
pnokio says:
Hello, And yes, of course, they are wonderful pieces - haven't played Bartok's quartets for awhile now, so I'll be back with them very soon. But that's how it goes. With every composer. I often think I'll never appreciate Chopin they way I used to, but then he's suddenly right there again. But I mentioned Arthur Schnittke - if you haven't listened to him, I urge you to do so. There is so much that is extraordinarily wonderful, often in the true sense of the word, being full of all kinds of wonder - the Concerto Grosso No. 1 is the first I heard of him - and then a friend, an efriend living in NZ, spoke about his In Memoriam, written in remembrance of his mother - and he said no one could have loved his mother more than Schnittke did his. Have a listen.

Best

Patrick
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