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Bartok: String Quartets No 1-6 / Belcea Quartet


Release Date: 02/05/2008 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 94400   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Performer:  Corina Belcea-FisherLaura SamuelKrzysztof ChorzelskiAntoine Lederlin,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 36 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an Enhanced CD, which contains both regular audio tracks and multimedia computer files.

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The pulse-rate is up -- the Belcea's brilliant Bartók beats the best

Bartók's quartets are one of the great musical collision points between modernism and romanticism. How to handle the tension between their expressive gestures and constructivist designs is one of the abiding issues for performers and one reason why even the plethora of fine available recordings cannot remotely exhaust their riches. Getting the best of all worlds interpretatively is hardly a realistic aim. Even so, there are long stretches where
Read more the Belceas come as close to the ideal as any ensemble I have heard.

Try the first few minutes of Quartets Nos 2 and 3, and marvel at the gradation of forte and fortissimo, of piano and pianissimo, which helps to give entire movements far more convincing shape than less precisely observant ensembles achieve (even such as the Takács, much vaunted in these pages). Try the outer movements of No 5 and marvel at the gear-changes negotiated smoothly, instantly and unanimously, yet never as ends in themselves, always accompanied by a sense of expressive-dramatic purpose. Try virtually every movement in fact, and revel, as the Belceas do, in the interplay of the lines, even in passages where others seem thankful just to come through unscathed.

Clearly immense thought has been given to tone quality. In the first movement of No 1, for instance, the Belceas point the periodic arrivals on consonant harmonies by withdrawing vibrato, and instantly the as yet not fully mature Bartók's straggly structure gains sharpness of profile. They apply the same ploy in the much tauter environment of the first movement of No 5, and with similarly revelatory results. At the other extreme, their sustained tonal intensity makes the most barbaric onrushes exhilarating rather than exhausting, neither too streamlined nor too effortful. When the score is bare of instructions, as in the first slow movement of No 5, they take it at its word and uncover a hypnotic, staring blankness. And when the invitation to humour is extended, as in the finale of the same quartet, they seize it with full-blooded, yet never self-serving, relish.

Before surrendering to the power of these performances, I wondered if there was going to be enough ethnic tang and zest, enough wildness and strangeness, enough sultry longing. I've certainly heard more of those qualities in the first two quartets. Yet the central movement of No 2 is marked molto capriccioso, not barbaro, and that's exactly what comes across, while the coda is pushed daringly close to the edge, sounding like the distant fluttering of giant moths - not as precisely by the book as the Emersons but vastly more imaginative and emotionally telling - while the slow finale has a superbly intense accumulation at its heart.

Pushed for a general reservation, I'd say that when a “speaking” quality is needed in the quasi-recitatives, the first violin's colleagues don't quite match her for idiomatic insight. And do the Belceas get to the heart of the matter in the trauma-shaded No 6? Not quite, in my book. Not by comparison with The Lindsays, anyway, who are generally more prepared to tolerate rough edges for the sake of emotional revelation.

ASV gives The Lindsays no better than serviceable recording quality. Decca's for the Takács is too swimmy for my taste, while EMI's for the Belcea's is just right. I was surprised when revisiting the Hungarians - whose recordings I grew up with and who coached The Lindsays in these pieces - to find them so strait-laced and generalised, while for all their exciting flare and agility, the Emersons and the Takács often sound like outsiders looking in. In short, the Belceas are more than worthy rivals to the best on disc. And at least until the excitement of this first encounter subsides, my pulse-rate tells me that they are not just on a par but maybe even top of the heap.

-- David Fanning, Gramophone [5/2008]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 1 in A minor, Op. 7/Sz 40 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin), Laura Samuel (Violin), Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola),
Antoine Lederlin (Cello), Corina Belcea (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 30 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (04/01/2007 - 04/05/2007) 
2.
Quartet for Strings no 3, Sz 85 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Corina Belcea (Violin), Laura Samuel (Violin), Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola),
Antoine Lederlin (Cello), Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 14 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (07/28/2007 - 08/02/2007) 
3.
Quartet for Strings no 5, Sz 102 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola), Laura Samuel (Violin), Corina Belcea (Violin),
Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin), Antoine Lederlin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 30 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (07/28/2007 - 08/02/2007) 
4.
Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 17 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola), Laura Samuel (Violin), Corina Belcea (Violin),
Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin), Antoine Lederlin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915-1917; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 26 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (04/01/2007 - 04/05/2007) 
5.
Quartet for Strings no 4, Sz 91 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola), Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin), Corina Belcea (Violin),
Laura Samuel (Violin), Antoine Lederlin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 22 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (07/28/2007 - 08/02/2007) 
6.
Quartet for Strings no 6, Sz 114 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Krzysztof Chorzelski (Viola), Laura Samuel (Violin), Corina Belcea (Violin),
Corina Belcea-Fisher (Violin), Antoine Lederlin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belcea String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Budapest, Hungary 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 29 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (04/01/2007 - 04/05/2007) 

Sound Samples

String Quartet No.1: I. Lento
String Quartet No.1: II. Poco a poco accelerando al Allegretto
String Quartet No.1: III. Allegro Vivace
String Quartet No. 3 Sz85: I. Prima parte: Moderato
String Quartet No. 3 Sz85: II. Seconda parte: Allegro
String Quartet No. 3 Sz85: III. Ricapitolazione della prima parte: Moderato - Coda: Allergo molto
String Quartet No. 5 Sz102: I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 5 Sz102: II. Adagio molto
String Quartet No. 5 Sz102: III. Scherzo (Alla bulgarese) & Trio
String Quartet No. 5 Sz102: IV. Andante
String Quartet No. 5 Sz102: V. Finale (Allegro vivace)
String Quartet No. 2 Sz67 (Op. 17): I. Moderato
String Quartet No. 2 Sz67 (Op. 17): II. Allegro molto capriccioso
String Quartet No. 2 Sz67 (Op. 17): III. Lento
String Quartet No. 4 Sz91: I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 4 Sz91: II. Prestissimo, con sordino
String Quartet No. 4 Sz91: III. Non troppo lento
String Quartet No. 4 Sz91: IV. Allegretto pizzicato
String Quartet No. 4 Sz91: V. Allegro molto
String Quartet No. 6 Sz114: I. Mesto
String Quartet No. 6 Sz114: II. Mesto
String Quartet No. 6 Sz114: III. Mesto
String Quartet No. 6 Sz114: IV. Mesto

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