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Thread: Bartok string quartets: Your favorite recording?

  1. #31
    Senior Member Dirge's Avatar
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    I’ve been listening to the new Heath Quartet set [HM, live ’16] via Spotify and can muster no enthusiasm for it: the playing is very skilled and nicely balanced and coordinated in a subtly flexible sort of way, and the interpretation is well thought out so far as I can tell, with much care taken to relate the various sections, but it’s clear that the group’s #1 priority here is to not make a mistake—and there’s not a moment when I fear that it will.

  2. #32
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    Any of the Juilliard Quartet recordings.

    I don't care for the Emerson Quartets clinical performances.
    Last edited by hpowders; Jul-25-2017 at 01:57.

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  4. #33
    Senior Member Omicron9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    Any of the Juilliard Quartet recordings.

    I don't care for the Emerson Quartets clinical performances.
    I have both: the Emerson, and two Juilliard cycles. I like them all about equally, but for different reasons.
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  6. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omicron9 View Post
    I have both: the Emerson, and two Juilliard cycles. I like them all about equally, but for different reasons.
    Okay. Have you heard the old Tokyo Quartet recordings?

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    Senior Member Omicron9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    Okay. Have you heard the old Tokyo Quartet recordings?
    I've heard (but don't own) two of the Tokyo cycles. I think one was mid-to-late '70s DG, and other was '90s Red Seal. I can't make additional comments since I don't know those versions well enough to comment. But interested to know your thoughts?
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  9. #36
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    Any comments on Jerusalem Quartet's take on 2, 4, & 6?

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    Quote Originally Posted by blackbrook View Post
    Any comments on Jerusalem Quartet's take on 2, 4, & 6?
    In the first movement of 4 they make the music sound elegant, tuneful and fluid. My superficial impression was that they were "at home" in 6, which I quite enjoyed. I haven't heard 2.

    Has the first violinist changed violin in this recording? The sound of them, the sort of noise they make - well I'm hardly an expert in strings but I don't think it's really special or characterful, it may well be accurate and inoffensive.

    Who says Bartok says Hungary. And who says Hungary says paprika. This is sweet paprika, not hot or smoked.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Apr-03-2018 at 07:10.

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    Senior Member Omicron9's Avatar
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    Update:
    Of late, I've been listening mostly to the Belcea cycle. Quite good; certainly on the level of the Juilliards, Emerson, et. al. I hear details in the Belcea that I don't hear in the others. However, I hear details in Juilliard and Emerson that I don't hear in Belcea. My opinion: to really "get" the Bartok quartets, you need more than one version.

    The research continues.
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  13. #39
    Junior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    I'd like to give a shout for the Juilliard's digital set. I know this heresy, but I recently picked up a brand new copy for a good price and was astonished by the performances and especially the sound quality (although to be fair, it was one of those top-notch Japanese remastering, but wasn't advertised or priced as such). I really can't understand why so many people poo-poo this set. I have to say though, I have never knowingly heard any of the previous sets. I'm interested in getting the early 60s set but it's either unavailable or way too expensive.

  14. #40
    Senior Member les24preludes's Avatar
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    For me there is only the Tatrai quartet. This is so good that I've stopped listening to anything else. It's been called "50 shades of grey" because of the wide tonal palette - they really explore the "sounds" as well as the notes. It's idiomatically Hungarian and very creative in their artistic decisions. Just on another level for me. Next to them I'd probably list the Hungarian, but that one stays on the shelves. I bought the Tatrai CD box and have never regretted it for a moment.

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    I've acquired the Tatrai set quite recently, and I have to echo the comments above. These make up a pretty special set (weird the Divertimento is included, though!)

    It seems all of my favourite Bartok Quartet sets now are on Hungaroton. It can't be a coincidence. The others that for me are in joint second place overall with the Tatrai's are the original, early digital Takacs. They are to some extent rough round the edges, but they play with a wild abandon that is missing for me in their later Decca set. This Decca set is still excellent, by the way, I just find the older set excellenter......Yes, I know there's precious little personnel overlap in these two sets, but you get my drift!

    Favourite set? The Devil-may-care approach of the Takacs AND the subtlety of the Tatrai, with the precision of the (grotesquely over-rated for me) Emersons. The Mikrokosmos set in the Bartok New Edition is for me a real revelation. Whoever records them finds something new and even unexpected, but these are especially fabulous..

    Of the sets I own, very very few are indifferent. These would be the Novaks (Philips) the Emerson (DGG) and the New Budapest (Hyperion) I am not a huge fan of the old DGG Hungarian Qt either, but it's a matter of personal taste, they're just a bit too smooth for me. The Vegh, DGG Tokyo, early Juilliards, Keller, Belcea, ABQ, Vermeer, Ramor, are all great too.

    I enjoyed the Chiara set, recommended not so long ago by Mandryka, and ditto the new Heath Quartet, although I do not know yet how often I'll return to them.
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; May-02-2018 at 23:17.

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  18. #42
    Senior Member Oldhoosierdude's Avatar
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    I have the Emerson Quartet which I found bargain bin and like it considerably. I considered Ramor Quartet on a low priced download but can only listen to samples and the sound seems flat and a bit dull to me (not the performance!). Dull sound will never do for these works.

    The Tatrai Quartet I listened to on YouTube and would get that one but the price point is beyond my usual limits.

    Think I will stick with what I have.
    Last edited by Oldhoosierdude; Aug-05-2019 at 08:07.
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    I have Alban Berg, and Takacs. I prefer the later slightly for the more full bodied sound. I want to pick up some older recordings. Probably Vegh, and the first Tokyo, or maybe the Emerson's.
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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omicron9 View Post
    I know the Tokyo recorded the cycle for RCA Red Seal in the (maybe) early '90s? Is the DG version a different recording? Thanks!
    The 1981 DG set was re-issued on the Eloquence label at a bargain price. Presto sells it for 12 dollars.
    Last edited by starthrower; Aug-08-2019 at 20:26.
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    ...or maybe the Emerson's.
    I have several versions of these quartets (Emerson, Vegh, Keller, Julliard, Tokyo). The Emerson set remains my favorite (even though it's clear that many on this forum don't like it). They're faithful to the scores and their playing is almost flawless throughout (the cellist does miss the timing on one note in movement 1 of the first quartet, but it's not egregious). I especially like their interpretation of the 4th quartet. They play it with so much energy.

    I consider these quartets to be clearly among the most important of the 20th century. Bartok broke so much new ground in this cycle.

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