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Bartók: The String Quartets / Guarneri Quartet


Release Date: 02/03/2009 
Label:  Rca   Catalog #: 94194  
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Performer:  Michael TreeJohn DalleyArnold SteinhardtDavid Soyer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

As a student in the mid-1970s I became acquainted with Bartók's string quartets through three recorded cycles. First I got to know the gaunt profile and driving precision of the Juilliard Quartet's stereo version, followed by the less virtuosic yet more idiomatically tinged, soul-bearing Vegh Quartet remake (kind of like going from prime Ella Fitzgerald to late Billie Holiday). To my ears, the Guarneri Quartet occupied a middle ground between these two extremes. Their newly refurbished 1975/76 set certainly sounds better in its initial CD release (courtesy of Arkivmusic.com's on-demand reissue program) than on my faded LP-to-cassette transfers.

The instruments, for one, convey more body, presence, and timbral
Read more character. RCA's close microphone placement highlights each performance's intimate virtues and brings the composer's innovative textural novelties into sharp focus, such as the Third quartet's glissandos and double-stops and the Sixth's "saltato" triplet figurations. It also imparts an appropriately percussive edge to the Second's marcatissimo writing, the Fourth's celebrated pizzicato movement, and the gruff dotted rhythms of the Sixth's March.

The foursome pays meticulous heed to Bartók's dynamic hairpins, yet sometimes the players take articulations and expressive directives casually. For example, in the First's second movement the first violin's slurred phrases marked "semplice" ought to convey a different aural character than the "dolce" second violin and viola duet underneath. Still, solo passages benefit from each player's strong individual profile, be it violist Michael Tree's gorgeous tone at the Sixth's outset, or the delicate, conversational qualities that emerge from the Second quartet third movement's hushed muted opening or the Fifth Andante's pizzicato espressivo phrases. No doubt that Guarneri Quartet fans will welcome this admirable achievement back into print.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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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:  Michael Tree (Viola), John Dalley (Violin), Arnold Steinhardt (Violin),
David Soyer (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 11-12/1976 
2. Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 17 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Arnold Steinhardt (Violin), John Dalley (Violin), Michael Tree (Viola),
David Soyer (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915-1917; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/1974-01/1975 
3. Quartet for Strings no 3, Sz 85 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  David Soyer (Cello), Arnold Steinhardt (Violin), John Dalley (Violin),
Michael Tree (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 05/20/1976 
4. Quartet for Strings no 4, Sz 91 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  David Soyer (Cello), Arnold Steinhardt (Violin), John Dalley (Violin),
Michael Tree (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 03/1976 
5. Quartet for Strings no 5, Sz 102 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Michael Tree (Viola), John Dalley (Violin), Arnold Steinhardt (Violin),
David Soyer (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 05-06/1976 
6. Quartet for Strings no 6, Sz 114 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  David Soyer (Cello), Arnold Steinhardt (Violin), John Dalley (Violin),
Michael Tree (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guarneri String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/1976 

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