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Carter, Babbitt, Powell: String Quartets / Composers Quartet


Release Date: 12/1990 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: CD606   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Elliott CarterMilton BabbittMel Powell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The competition on my shelves for Elliott Carter's Fourth String Quartet consists of the Arditti's Etcetera performance, as part of a two-disc compilation done in 1988 of the so-far four, recorded under the composer's supervision. The Arditti prevails. They articulate the work's important inner voices exquisitely well and flyingly; their ensemble astonishes (as always), as does their feel for the work's vitality. But it's really such a close call: as I listen to the Composer's Quartet's rather more stolid perusal I think, well yes, but as they linger at the turns we've the opportunity to dwell on the architecture the Arditti discharges ever so pyrotechnically. So I suggest you have both, with the two Etceteras (KTC 1055/6) taking pride of Read more place, should you lean toward but one view. Small production gaffe: the Carter's been assigned three tracks in the text and one on the disc. (The Etcetera also tracks the quartet's three connected parts as one.)

A performance of Mel Powell's String Quartet (1982) appears on a Musical Heritage Society CD, 512495T, Mel Powell: Six Recent Works, with the Sequoia String Quartet, and here too I favor the Sequoia's reading to the Composer's for its rather more supple and singing way with a complexly atonal score which rises nonetheless, and at their hands particularly, to heights of Romantic expressiveness, which the Composer's Quartet sacrifices to form. (The MHS disc's mixed Powell program is one the collector of the contemporary ought to have in any case.)

To the Babbitt quartet I've none to compare but have the very strong sense that the want of expressiveness remarked above seems here too to blunt somewhat the work's overall impact and, perhaps most tellingly, seems also to bond these three quartets into something like a familial—or better put, skeletal—resemblance. The recorded sound is very good. And so are the performances, make no mistake, though a touch too foursquare-analytical for this reviewer's tastes. But perhaps not for yours: recommended therefore as a t wo-thirds-confirmed different approach to good, important music. (You'll find a performance of Babbitt's String Quartet No. Four, performed by the Juilliard, on a CRI CD, 587, a fact I mention because Opus doesn't: its expanded format notwithstanding, Schwann appears to be as unreliable as ever.)

-- Mike Silverton, FANFARE [5/1991] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 4 by Elliott Carter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; USA 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  SUNY Purchase, New York 
2.
Quartet for Strings no 5 by Milton Babbitt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  SUNY Purchase, New York 
3.
Quartet for Strings by Mel Powell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Composers String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Venue:  SUNY Purchase, New York 

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