Following up its widely acclaimed reissues of the Juilliard Quartet’s complete Epic and RCA Victor albums – originally issued between 1956 and 1960 – Sony Classical is excited to present a new box set collecting the earliest albums of this august American ensemble. Made between 1949 and 1956 in Columbia’s studio on Manhattan’s 30th St., these landmark recordings are mostly new to CD.
From its first appearances in New York, the Juilliard Quartet was identified as a champion of modern music. Its first recordings for American Columbia, all included here, were dedicated to the works of Alban Berg and Béla Bartók (then only recently deceased), as well as to Arnold Schoenberg (still very much alive), and to active American composers including William Schuman. But the heart of this release comprising 16 newly mastered CDs and also featuring works by Mozart, Ravel, Webern, Milhaud, Copland, Peter Mennin, Alexei Haieff and Andrew Imbrie, are three discs containing the premiere of Béla Bartók’s six quartets on records, which were set down in 1949. They appeared on LP and 78s the following year, bringing the Juilliard Quartet its first real celebrity. Recorded on 78-rpm shellacs rather than on tape, this path-breaking set thus consists of live, unedited performances. When reissued some years ago on CD – the only portion of the new Sony Classical box set ever to have appeared before on silver discs – it was rapturously praised in Fanfare magazine for “its joy of discovery, which remains completely fresh and vivid” even though numerous other traversals of the Bartók cycle had appeared in the meantime.
Another Juilliard milestone was the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s four quartets on records, set down in 1951–52. At last, all these historic Juilliard String Quartet recordings are available to today’s music lovers.