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Thread: Cycle review: Bartok

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alypius View Post
    This one:

    This second recording by the Takacs has an outstanding extrovert version of the 4th quartet I agree, I also like the much more cool headed style of the Keller.

    For the fourth quartet, there are three which have had an even greater impact than either Keller or Takacs (Decca). They are Juilliard (1950), Tatrai and Zehetmair.
    Last edited by Mandryka; May-01-2014 at 06:09.

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    Senior Member Avey's Avatar
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    His 1st Q. is so meditative. That opening theme feels as if it should dissipate, or even evolve into something more lively -- reminiscent of Shostakovich's 8th somewhat, no? -- but it just continues on. Interesting that it was his first published S.Q. Anyone know if he wrote this first as well? I would assume so, but never know with publications.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    This has been a phenomenal thread. Thanks to all the contributors!
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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  6. #19
    Senior Member (Ret) Alypius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avey View Post
    His 1st Q. is so meditative. That opening theme feels as if it should dissipate, or even evolve into something more lively -- reminiscent of Shostakovich's 8th somewhat, no? -- but it just continues on. Interesting that it was his first published S.Q. Anyone know if he wrote this first as well? I would assume so, but never know with publications.
    Avey, Here's some notes on Bartok's String Quartet #1. It dates from 1907-08 (one source says it was completed in January 1909), soon after he was appointed to the Budapest Academy of Music. He was just then beginning to earn a reputation as a remarkable virtuoso pianist. Some have referred to this as his first masterpiece. It is his earliest chamber work of any kind. Some make much of biographical background: he had fallen in love with a violinist in 1907, wrote a concerto for her; he was heartbroke when she broke off things; after some dark times (evident in piano works of the period), he fell in love again. His friend Kodaly speaks of the quartet as a "return to life." Such things are rarely central to understanding Bartok's music, but it might have some weight at this stage in his career.

    The quartet still shows certain debts to German Romanticism (its harmonies have been compared to Strauss' Elektra which is from the same time) and, for that matter, to Schoenberg's late Romantic style evident in his 1899 Verklarte Nacht. The first movement opens with a canon and, from what I have read, shows the influence of the fugue in Beethoven's string quartet, op. 131. The opening canon return at the end of the movement.

    The 2nd movement has three themes (1st in 2nd violin; 2nd, a waltz in inner strings above an ostinato; the 3rd above a cello pizzicato). The three are resolved in reverse order, a sort of symmetry that Bartok exploits on a larger scale in his 4th String Quartet (see earlier comments on "arch form").

    According to what I have read on the work, Bartok had purchased a copy of the score of Debussy's String Quartet in 1907 and was interested in what French composers were doing. So one might detect certain "impressionist" effects, especially in the 3rd movement. The 3rd movement also has elements of a soaring late-romanticism on the one hand and, on the other, the first fruits of his research into Hungarian folk music, especially its unusual rhythms. It directly quotes a folk melody that Kodaly later made famous in his 1939 "Peacock" Variations.
    Last edited by Alypius; Jun-08-2014 at 18:36.

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    So...Alypius is winning this thread.

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    This may be considered heretical, but the first Bartok quartet has always been my favorite of the six; haunting, almost romantic, unforgettable.

    I have the Emerson set and am not happy with it. I would just want the first quartet isolated from the entire set. I wouldn't shell out for another complete set just to get a more satisfactory performance of the first quartet. Hopefully, one day...
    Last edited by hpowders; Jun-13-2014 at 15:49.
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    The Emerson quartet is absolutely amazing in terms of technical proficiency and the sound their violist gets is powerful as hell, which is nice.

    But they often sound quite dry and thin. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't...

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    Senior Member Kontrapunctus's Avatar
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    This is my favorite Bartok Quartet set:



    followed closely by



    (They have recorded all six--they just have to be purchased as three separate discs, which makes the Mikrokosmos' set a better deal.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by violadude View Post
    The Emerson quartet is absolutely amazing in terms of technical proficiency and the sound their violist gets is powerful as hell, which is nice.

    But they often sound quite dry and thin. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't...
    I find their Mendelssohn is top of the line; Beethoven and Bartok, not.

    They do not produce what could be called a warm sound like the Quartetto Italiano used to make.
    Last edited by hpowders; Jun-14-2014 at 00:44.
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    I've long admired the Bartok Quartets and have acquired several complete sets on both LP and CD. My perennial favorite is the Fifth Quartet, but that is merely a favorite among a superb set all round.

    I first became acquainted with the Bartok Quartets on a set of three LP records published by DOVER. They date to 1967, which is around the time I got mine. They feature the Tátrai Quartet, a Hungarian Quartet which seems to have an affinity for the music. I've heard many interpretations on disc, but never tire of returning to the Tátrai on my old black discs which, fortunately, are still quite playable, having been well cared for. (I see they are still wearing their original plastic shrink wrap covers, which has protected the jackets nicely.)

    mQg5AJqSgJxpjtv4F444Zbw.jpg

    The picture of the cover of the Bartok Third and Fourth Quartets was lifted from ebay where I see a couple copies of the record available for sale, one as cheap as $3.49 and another for $8.00 or "best offer". If the vinyl is in good shape and you have a turntable, that's a steal of a price for an opportunity to hear these interpretations. I don't know if they've ever been released on CD or in any download format. Perhaps someone out there knows.

    I just put No. 4 on the turntable. Stunning opening. These are Stereo pressings, and the quartet members are spread out appropriately in front of me, in a rather expansive sound stage with a rich, authentic string timbre from the recording. (I knew there was a reason I never dumped these albums.)

    Reading over the back jacket of DOVER HCR-ST-7973 (which features the Third and Fourth Quartets) I see this comment attributed to Bartok himself: "Our peasant music, naturally, is invariably tonal, if not always in the sense that the inflexible major and minor system is tonal. (An "atonal" folk-music, in my opinion, is unthinkable.) Since we depend upon a tonal basis of this kind in our creative work, it is quite self-evident that our works are quite pronouncedly tonal in type. I must admit, however, that there was a time when I thought I was approaching a species of twelve-tone music. Yet even in works of that period the absolute tonal foundation is unmistakable." That should answer the question about whether the Quartets are atonal or not.

    By the way, I see now that the back jacket notes on this DOVER recording were written by none other than composer George Perle who himself wrote several String Quartets which are available on the BRIDGE label and are well worth a listen.

    In the meantime, I'm currently enjoying the sounds of the Fourth Quartet, which is still playing. Great stuff!
    Last edited by SONNET CLV; Jun-14-2014 at 02:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    I find their Mendelssohn is top of the line; Beethoven and Bartok, not.

    They do not produce what could be called a warm sound like the Quartetto Italiano used to make.
    Overall, I haven't found a better Beethoven String Quartet recording than theirs.

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  18. #27
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    The Tatrai are well-regarded and were re-issued on CD by Hungaraton -- but not now available it seems. My favorite in Bartok has been for a long time the Takacs Quartet.
    Last edited by KenOC; Jun-14-2014 at 03:29.


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  20. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    I've long admired the Bartok Quartets and have acquired several complete sets on both LP and CD. My perennial favorite is the Fifth Quartet, but that is merely a favorite among a superb set all round.

    I first became acquainted with the Bartok Quartets on a set of three LP records published by DOVER. They date to 1967, which is around the time I got mine. They feature the Tátrai Quartet, a Hungarian Quartet which seems to have an affinity for the music. I've heard many interpretations on disc, but never tire of returning to the Tátrai on my old black discs which, fortunately, are still quite playable, having been well cared for. (I see they are still wearing their original plastic shrink wrap covers, which has protected the jackets nicely.)

    mQg5AJqSgJxpjtv4F444Zbw.jpg

    The picture of the cover of the Bartok Third and Fourth Quartets was lifted from ebay where I see a couple copies of the record available for sale, one as cheap as $3.49 and another for $8.00 or "best offer". If the vinyl is in good shape and you have a turntable, that's a steal of a price for an opportunity to hear these interpretations. I don't know if they've ever been released on CD or in any download format. Perhaps someone out there knows.

    I just put No. 4 on the turntable. Stunning opening. These are Stereo pressings, and the quartet members are spread out appropriately in front of me, in a rather expansive sound stage with a rich, authentic string timbre from the recording. (I knew there was a reason I never dumped these albums.)

    Reading over the back jacket of DOVER HCR-ST-7973 (which features the Third and Fourth Quartets) I see this comment attributed to Bartok himself: "Our peasant music, naturally, is invariably tonal, if not always in the sense that the inflexible major and minor system is tonal. (An "atonal" folk-music, in my opinion, is unthinkable.) Since we depend upon a tonal basis of this kind in our creative work, it is quite self-evident that our works are quite pronouncedly tonal in type. I must admit, however, that there was a time when I thought I was approaching a species of twelve-tone music. Yet even in works of that period the absolute tonal foundation is unmistakable." That should answer the question about whether the Quartets are atonal or not.

    By the way, I see now that the back jacket notes on this DOVER recording were written by none other than composer George Perle who himself wrote several String Quartets which are available on the BRIDGE label and are well worth a listen.

    In the meantime, I'm currently enjoying the sounds of the Fourth Quartet, which is still playing. Great stuff!
    The Tatrai 6 is also good.

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    Anyone enjoy listening to the later books of Mikrokosmos? Or the Etudes?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jun-14-2014 at 07:48.

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    Bartok's 2nd string quartet is a beatiful piece of composition, particularly the first movement - there is a dolce segment near the end in 6/8 (although a hemiola is used, so it sounds like a march) which is one of the most conventionally melodic things I've ever heard, but it is shortlived, being juxtaposed with a more dramatic and dissonant reiteration of a cell from the melody (it occurs about 7 minutes in, depending on who plays it). Bartok clearly understood balance very well and what I like is that his string quartets sound to me like they have very distinct sections, but nevertheless retain coherence. They're all fantastic (I like the 3rd particularly also), but the 2nd is the one I return to most often.

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