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Porter, Barber, Piston: String Quartets / Chester Quartet


Release Date: 11/1991 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7069   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Quincy PorterSamuel BarberWalter Piston
Performer:  Fritz GearhartRonald GorevicKathryn VotapekThomas Rosenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chester String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Quincy Porter (1897-1966) studied with Horatio Parker at Yale, then with d'Indy and with Bloch. Porter never quite made it into the Pantheon of American composers; the reason may be simply that he was always attuned to chamber music in an era when others were trying to write the great American symphony. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music calls his nine string quartets “together, one of the most substantial contributions to that literature made by any American composer.“ Porter's quartets, like Haydn's, have a natural feel of good music to play and to hear; they are modern without following any particular school or system. Ross Lee Finney referred to Porter's “exceedingly sensitive ear.“ While there have been recent complete Read more recordings of the quartets of Chadwick, Piston, and Bloch (five each), plus the four of Carter, we must search far and wide to hear any of Porter's. This one, written in Paris in 1930, is the best known, having been recorded in both the 78 and LP eras. A joyous yet thoughtful Allegro contrasts a vigorous rhythmic motto with an expansive lyrical second theme, coming to a quiet close. A somber, songful Andante rises to several climaxes of melancholy. The Allegro moderato finale combines snapping rhythmic figures with broad melody; a central section drops the rhythms for a minute, but they return as a dance of ever-increasing intensity through which the singing line is always heard.

Samuel Barber's 1936 string quartet is better known, primarily for its second movement, the original of his ubiquitous Adagio for Strings. But the opening Molto Allegro e appassionato is one of Barber's strongest utterances, contrasting impassioned outbursts with his typically warm lyric expression. It is reprised for two-and-a-half minutes at the end of the Adagio, closing a fine string quartet. Over the years there have been notable recordings by the Beaux Arts, Borodin, Cleveland, Stradivari, and Concord Quartet's, the last now available on a Nonesuch CD.

Walter Piston's 1933 First Quartet, Allegro, Adagio, Allegro vivace, brims over with the aggressive neo-classicism we associate with him. The Chester Quartet makes the strongest possible impression in all three works; they display tight ensemble, their playing has both strength and warmth, and they project a deep involvement with all this music. I prefer these renditions to others I have heard of the Barber and Piston quartets, and I can't imagine that the two early recordings of the Porter could be any finer. Koch's recording is deep and clean, with fine balances. In what has by now become an inexplicable habit akin to a psychological tic, Koch lists incorrect timings for several tracks and for the whole—a tiny blemish to avoid the monotony of absolute perfection? I hope to hear more from the Chester, especially more Quincy Porter.

-- James H. North, FANFARE [5/1992] Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Quartet for Strings no 3 by Quincy Porter
Performer:  Fritz Gearhart (Violin), Ronald Gorevic (Viola), Kathryn Votapek (Violin),
Thomas Rosenberg (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chester String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Master Sound Studios, Astoria, NY 
Length: 17 Minutes 12 Secs. 
2. Quartet for Strings in B minor, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Fritz Gearhart (Violin), Kathryn Votapek (Violin), Ronald Gorevic (Viola),
Thomas Rosenberg (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chester String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Master Sound Studios, Astoria, NY 
Length: 20 Minutes 39 Secs. 
3. Quartet for Strings no 1 by Walter Piston
Performer:  Kathryn Votapek (Violin), Fritz Gearhart (Violin), Ronald Gorevic (Viola),
Thomas Rosenberg (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chester String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/1990 
Venue:  Master Sound Studios, Astoria, NY 
Length: 19 Minutes 47 Secs. 

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