I've had problems with the SQs. Partially, it could be the incisive recording, but I just never warmed to their language. I had 7-12, and everyone says that 13-15 was the cd to get, and now you mention No.13. Any "lengthy" thoughts concerning the SQs in general, or specific ones?
Here are a few short impressions about these quartets, as far as I can remember (I'll make it short) :String quartet nr.1
: gloomy, contemplative - very beautiful cello-violin duo in the 2nd mvt.String quartet nr.2
: softly disonnant, more vivid than the previous one, a little bit Prokofiew-likeString quartet nr.3
: a clear, meditative and luminous sadness; one of his bestsString quartet nr.4
: dramatic, dark, unevently inspired with some very beautiful partsString quartet nr.5
: austere and rough, with 2 central long slow movements. String quartet nr.6
: vivid, almost virtuoso, joyful and shimmering String quartet nr.7
: very expressive, magical and powerful - again a masterpieceString quartet nr.8
: light, bright, soft and iridescent. - another great one.String quartet nr.9
: harsh, tragic and mineral, a very static and oppressive atmosphereString quartet nr.10
: harsh, sour and VERY austere.String quartet nr.11
: vivid and twinkling, a very beautiful one.String quartet nr.12
: Maybe the best of all: quiet, luminous, less chromatic than the othersString quartet nr.13
: Lightly nostalgic - vivid and fluid, almost aquatic - splendid.String quartet nr.14
: gloomy, a little bit boring, but interesting pizzicato partsString quartet nr.15
: except for a not so good slow mvt, it is both vivacious and darkString quartet nr.16
: iridescent, colourful, light crystal clear - another wonderful oneString quartet nr.17 "mattinata"
: delicate, gloomy, but not so captivatingString quartet nr.18 "glornata"
: not very glornata, rather dull and grayString quartet nr.19 "serata"
: absolutely boringString quartet nr.20 "notturno"
: the best of the "day serie", less chromatic but still tastelessString quartet nr.21 "sereno"
: the last work, edited by Per Nørgård - gray and depressive.
In a way, it's difficult to warm to these string quartets, as they are rather cold and distanciated pieces: but they are full of colours, and the composer has a perfect command of quartet writing, which is rare (synthetic, organic, economic, expressive and meticulous) - the more you listen to them, the easier it becomes. In my opinion, the point is that you need to know which ones are worth listening several times.
These string quartets have no title, then I decided to imagine them. It sounds a bit heretic, but giving them a title helps me to remember their atmosphere - and as you have 21 quartets, I can tell that the trick is effective. I didn't write these titles here, as they are only refering to the images which came to my mind while listening. They may orientate you in a wrong direction.
To say it briefly :
- the series 1-8 is very good (= colourful, lighter, clear with subtle string textures)
- the day series 17-21 is not so good (= sad, gloomy, depressive and boring)
- the best ones : 3,7,8,12,13 & 16
- the very good ones : 2,3,4,5,6,11
In the 13-15 cd you have the 13 and the 15 which are really good
Obviously; this is only the way I feel it - if you like the sad and gray register, it could be the exact contrary