Léner String Quartet


Active: 1918 - 1948
The Léner String Quartet was founded by violinist Janos (or Jenö) Léner (1894 - 1948) in 1918 at the Budapest Academy of Music. The Léner Quartet was one among several world-class chamber ensembles that were created under the watchful eye of virtuoso and pedagogue Jenö Hubay. In addition to Janos Léner himself, the Léner Quartet included second violinist Jozsef Smilovits, violist Sándor Roth, and cellist Imre Hartmann. While they were usually billed as "The Léner Quartet of Budapest," the group was mainly based out of London from 1922 through 1939, and made their American debut in 1929. The Léner Quartet traveled around the world, concertizing, working directly with famous composers (such as Ottorino Respighi), and conducting workshops with aspiring chamber musicians. Personnel remained the same until the ensemble broke up in 1942. Janos Léner revived the group with different members in 1945, but his untimely death at age 54 in 1948 brought the Léner Quartet's illustrious history as a performing ensemble to a close. The Léner Quartet may have been the major string quartet active in commercial recording during the prime years of the 78rpm era. Beginning with acoustic records made in London in 1923, it ultimately produced some 450 sides and in many cases, was responsible for making the first-recorded performances of familiar string quartet works.

With the Beethoven centenary of 1927, the Léner Quartet instituted the first recorded cycle of the Beethoven string quartets; while depression economics halted their progress at 14 quartets (out of 16) in 1933, the Léner Quartet recordings became widely recognized as the established standard for these works. These were not superseded until the appearance of the Budapest Quartet's recordings of the full Beethoven cycle in the years following World War II. In addition to the works of Beethoven, the Léner Quartet also recorded works of Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, and Debussy, among others, and made ensemble appearances with soloists such as Dennis Brain, Aubrey Brain, and Leon Goossens. So highly regarded were their releases that a lengthy exegesis on the Léner Quartet's recording of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor is used as an element in the climactic scene of Aldous Huxley's novel Point Counter Point (1928).

Janos Léner died on the very eve of the introduction of the long-playing record, which greatly aided the dissemination of chamber music of all kinds, and in particular helped promote the popularity of the Budapest Quartet, another ensemble initially nurtured under Hubay. By 1950, the Léner Quartet recordings, mostly made in the 1920s, must have seemed ancient by comparison as the group favored a broad, fat string tone more readily associated with arch-Romantic performance practice. Nonetheless, this is precisely why some of the Léner Quartet recordings are being revived on CD more than 50 years after they were largely regarded as obsolete artifacts belonging to a bygone era. While the Léner Quartet's approach to Classical-era literature may seem a bit too precious, the recordings of the late Beethoven quartets and works by Brahms, Dvorák, and similar repertoire directly comes from the heart of the late-Romantic idiom. This group of recordings within the extensive body of work left by the Léner Quartet represent an authoritative interpretive viewpoint on late-Romantic quartet literature and warrant revival.

There are 2 Léner String Quartet recordings available.

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