Author Topic: Bartok - The String Quartets  (Read 24685 times)

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Offline NorthNYMark

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #40 on: September 22, 2014, 07:13:53 PM »
Good analysis.

I have heard Tátrai, Vegh (II) and Mikrokosmos, as they're all on Naxos Music Library, as well as Takacs I & II, Hagen, Juilliard '63, Belcea, and individual discs from Ebène and Arcanto. I've also probably heard Emerson before though I don't remember it very well.

My favourite without a doubt is Juilliard '63. It's old, OOP and interpretively extreme, so of course I like it. I was raised on Takacs II, probably the best MOR "reference" set everything else gets compared to—driven and powerful with heaps of authentic Hungarian feeling. The Hagen Quartet, as usual, out-Belceas Belcea in terms of spiky modernism. Takacs I on the other hand is on the accessible/folksy/beautiful side of things, along with Tátrai (whichever version comes with the complete Bartók on Hungaroton) and Vegh (Naïve), which can described as "gritty without modernism". Mikrokosmos, also on Hungaroton, is another group whose interpretations are steeped in Magyarisms and a choice that doesn't seem to be talked about much. I'll have to re-listen to them at some point.

For the single discs, Ebène has that intimate, fragile sound you describe above & lovely playing, definitely something to hope for a follow-up on, whereas the Arcanto is an ensemble made up of Antje Weithaas, Daniel Sepec, Tabea Zimmermann and Jean-Guihen Queyras. Draw your own conclusions.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply (and insights into several intriguing versions I have yet to hear). Also, thanks for moving my post (originally written in response to some questions people were asking about these quartets on the "Now Listening to..." thread) to where it more naturally belongs!

The Ebene sounds interesting, and I have to find a way to hear the Tatrai and Vegh--perhaps I'll look into the Naxos library, since I didn't know they were available there.

[By the way, apologies to everyone for my lack of diacritical markings--I can add them easily from my Mac laptop, but haven't figured out how to do it from the PC laptop I'm using at the moment.]

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #41 on: September 22, 2014, 08:02:47 PM »
...and Vegh (Naïve), which can described as "gritty without modernism".

Hmm...not sure I'd go along with that. I agree with "gritty", if by "grit" you mean "grit between the toes during a barefoot country stroll while collecting berries". That is, in touch with the "earthy" side of Bartok.

But without modernism? Don't really hear it that way at all. In fact, the Veghs impress with their "big" sound, which gives ample room for them to spike up whatever they wish. And they do indulge, but it's always within the confines of their overarching "earthy" approach. Great, great combination that's unique in my experience.

And they're my preferred, even over the Emerson or Takacs.




 
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline amw

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #42 on: September 22, 2014, 08:26:04 PM »
By "without modernism" I mean that they avoid the Belcea/Juilliard/Hagen approach of swift and sharp, give the music plenty of relaxation room and humour and nostalgia rather than the intense concentration on every single sound one finds in, say, the Hagen Quartet's recording. They don't play it like late Beethoven, or Webern.

I suppose the Hungarian groups (including also the Mikrokosmos, Nowak & Tátrai, and possibly Takacs I) share a fairly similar approach towards Bartók, perhaps that "earthiness" you describe.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #43 on: September 22, 2014, 09:10:46 PM »
By "without modernism" I mean that they avoid the Belcea/Juilliard/Hagen approach of swift and sharp, give the music plenty of relaxation room and humour and nostalgia rather than the intense concentration on every single sound one finds in, say, the Hagen Quartet's recording. They don't play it like late Beethoven, or Webern.

I suppose the Hungarian groups (including also the Mikrokosmos, Nowak & Tátrai, and possibly Takacs I) share a fairly similar approach towards Bartók, perhaps that "earthiness" you describe.

This may be the case.  And I'm impressed by how, I think, youhear the same qualities in soe early recordings of keyboard music -- the recordings Bartok himself made, and the mono recordings that  Gyorgy Sandor made. If you like that style, I'd be keen to know what you make of Zehetmair.

The common link between Mikrokosmos and Takacs 1 is Gábor Takács–Nagy. I need to listen to both of them more carefully -- neither so far have really inspired me but I've only listened pretty casually. I just played the 5th from the Novak for the first time and quite enjoyed it -- but my latest discovery is the Ramor, which is completely unlike anyone else I've heard. Another one I remember finding interesting -- grey scaled like a pencil drawing -- was The New Hungarian Quartet on Vox -- I don't think it has very much to do with The Hungarian Quartet on DG. I think the only common factor is Koromzay. There are also some live Bartok quartets from the (old ) Hungarian Quartet which are magic.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 09:28:56 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline springrite

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #44 on: September 22, 2014, 09:30:30 PM »
Bartok is one of the composers I don't really get, as per Josquin's thread, but I have been trying to get into the string quartets for a long time.  Quite a while ago, I got the Novak Qt. on Philips and later came across the Takacs Qt. on London, when it was fresh and new. 

Some months ago, I got the set with the old Fine Arts Quartet, because they are my favorite string quartet, and I have been listening to it now and then to see if I can get into them. They even have a discussion of the first quartet by the members.


I will get my hands on this set next month in California where some of my purchases have been shipped.

Interesting that no one else commented on this set. I wonder why...
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Offline Todd

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #45 on: September 23, 2014, 04:16:36 AM »
I will get my hands on this set next month in California where some of my purchases have been shipped.

Interesting that no one else commented on this set. I wonder why...



Almost no one has bought it, I would guess.  For me, they have good moments, but take any interpretive attribute or combination of attributes you care to focus on, and a better set is available.

I just hope that the Zehetmair Quartett records all of the Bartok quartets, however long it may take them.
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Offline springrite

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #46 on: September 23, 2014, 04:21:56 AM »


Almost no one has bought it, I would guess.  For me, they have good moments, but take any interpretive attribute or combination of attributes you care to focus on, and a better set is available.

I just hope that the Zehetmair Quartett records all of the Bartok quartets, however long it may take them.

Thanks for the response. I bought it at BRO. Certainly look forward to listening to it!
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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #48 on: September 27, 2014, 09:50:35 AM »
I would tell you to get the Nowak Quartet which I have as a Philips duo, but it must be unobtainable since there is no listing for it on Amazon .   it is better than the Belcea, although they are, looked at on their own, good.  The only other I have from your list is Emerson, which I rate as their worst recording by a mile...too much thought went into it and no heart.

jlaurson

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #49 on: September 27, 2014, 11:18:58 AM »
I would tell you to get the Nowak Quartet which I have as a Philips duo, but it must be unobtainable since there is no listing for it on Amazon .   it is better than the Belcea, although they are, looked at on their own, good.  The only other I have from your list is Emerson, which I rate as their worst recording by a mile...too much thought went into it and no heart.

Yep, that's why they are at the bottom of my list. Although they might score hire in a blind test, I'm hesitant to add. :-)

Offline NorthNYMark

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #50 on: September 27, 2014, 12:21:43 PM »
I didn't realize the Novak Quartet on Philips was out of print, though it appears to be OOP on Amazon.com and .co.uk.  It looks like Amazon.ca still has some, including some super-cheap used ones, though.

Jens, that's a great list, but I notice among the cycles not on it are the two that have become my favorites (the Novak and the Hungarian Quartets), as well as several new discoveries (based on suggestions from Mandryka) that might soon be joining those two on my favorites list (the Tatrai, the New Hungarian, and the Ramor quartets).  Have you heard any of these and just not found them worthy, or have you not heard them?  In any event, what the Novak, Tatrai, and New Hungarians have in common (IMHO) is a more delicate, almost fragile approach to the quartets, which still lets the modernity shine through, but in a perhaps more subtle and sometimes atmospherically disqieting way.  Of them, the Novak seems to have the most angst simmering below the surface. 

Since it sounds like you've ranked your list in order of preference, I'm surprised to see the Julliards and the Emersons so far apart in your ranking--to me, the Emersons sound a lot like the Julliards, but with just a bit more Takacs-style warmth added to the mix (I personally find the Takacs too warm and "hearty," with an over-reverberant sonic presentation that smooths away much of the most interesting nuance).  Since you seem to find the Emersons clinical, what is it about the Julliards (or the Belcea, for that matter) that feels less so to you?  I found the Belcea in particular to be almost machine-like in their unrelenting tempos and focus on sharply delineated edges.

Offline George

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #51 on: September 27, 2014, 12:57:25 PM »
I didn't realize the Novak Quartet on Philips was out of print, though it appears to be OOP on Amazon.com and .co.uk.  It looks like Amazon.ca still has some, including some super-cheap used ones, though.

Jens, that's a great list, but I notice among the cycles not on it are the two that have become my favorites (the Novak and the Hungarian Quartets), ......

The Hungarian is my favorite set of the Bartok Quartets. 
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #52 on: September 27, 2014, 05:59:35 PM »
The Bartok discussion made me wonder what I had and how many I had any particular feelings about (or others may have)

If your list is a ranking then I agree with that top spot (Végh). Gave it my own top spot a few posts back. Sucks that it's on Naïve, the out-of-print black hole label.

Agree with the second spot, too. Although I do have stronger feelings for the Emerson.

 
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline NorthNYMark

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #53 on: September 28, 2014, 01:44:02 PM »
An important correction to my previous post--when I expressed surprise that Jens put so much distance between the Julliard and Emerson Quartet cycles, I was thinking of the more famous '60s Julliard performances, which to me sound like the Emersons, but with an even harder, more unforgiving edge.  I just listened a bit to the '80s Julliard cycle, though, and can definitely see why Jens might have put them at such a distance from the Emersons--the later cycle is far, far softer around the edges than their '60s cycle (based just on the first movement to Quartet no. 5).

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #54 on: September 30, 2014, 07:18:54 AM »
...I notice among the cycles not on it are the two that have become my favorites (the Novak and the Hungarian Quartets), as well as several new discoveries (based on suggestions from Mandryka) that might soon be joining those two on my favorites list (the Tatrai, the New Hungarian, and the Ramor quartets).  Have you heard any of these and just not found them worthy, or have you not heard them? 

The latter. Not heard them. But your description sounds intriguing, indeed.

I'd say the Hagen take a fairly 'clinical' approach, too... but somehow it gels. I'm ready to admit that my "state-neutral" on anything by the Emersons is rather one of lack-of-appreciation (Webern and Ives and The Art of the Fugue and a few other things well excepted)... so it could just be bias that makes Emerson score quite so low with me. Somehow I'm very ready to let their performances rub me the wrong way in a "show-off-technical-prowess-but-heart-ain't-in-it" way.

An important correction to my previous post--when I expressed surprise that Jens put so much distance between the Julliard and Emerson Quartet cycles, I was thinking of the more famous '60s Julliard performances, which to me sound like the Emersons, but with an even harder, more unforgiving edge.  I just listened a bit to the '80s Julliard cycle, though, and can definitely see why Jens might have put them at such a distance from the Emersons--the later cycle is far, far softer around the edges than their '60s cycle (based just on the first movement to Quartet no. 5).

Now I'm confused. I've put the big distance between the 63 Juilliard and Emerson (in perceived/remembered preference, not so much for stylistic reasons), but no distance between the latter and the later Juilliard cycle.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 07:24:58 AM by jlaurson »

Offline George

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #55 on: September 30, 2014, 07:23:16 AM »
Now I'm confused. I've put the big distance between the 63 Juilliard and Emerson (in perceived/remembered preference, not so much for stylistic reasons), but no distance between the latter and the later Juilliard cycle.

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Offline NorthNYMark

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #56 on: September 30, 2014, 07:42:06 AM »

Now I'm confused. I've put the big distance between the 63 Juilliard and Emerson (in perceived/remembered preference, not so much for stylistic reasons), but no distance between the latter and the later Juilliard cycle.

Whoops--you're right (and my initial response that I tried to "correct" was also right). I guess then I'm still surprised that you wouldn't classify the Julliard '60s set in the same way you do the Emersons, but even more so.  Perhaps what I consider an even greater lack of "feel" in the Julliard you consider to be intensity (which would explain why you rate the far more relaxed '80s Julliard cycle so much lower).

Offline amw

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #57 on: September 30, 2014, 10:12:55 AM »
This may be the case.  And I'm impressed by how, I think, youhear the same qualities in soe early recordings of keyboard music -- the recordings Bartok himself made, and the mono recordings that  Gyorgy Sandor made. If you like that style, I'd be keen to know what you make of Zehetmair.
The Zehetmair has Bartók 4 on that CD with Beethoven, Bruckner and Holliger right? I've been meaning to pick that up anyway, whenever ECM goes on sale...

Quote
The common link between Mikrokosmos and Takacs 1 is Gábor Takács–Nagy.
Indeed. I think Mikrokosmos's greater strength may be Miklós Perényi though.

The Végh cycle has been growing on me. I've been listening to it quite a bit lately and everything fits together so naturally. Still prefer Juilliard '63 & Takacs '96 for SUPER INTENSITY EXTREME OMG but it's got a good shot at third place.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #58 on: September 30, 2014, 11:11:09 AM »
The 4th is with a quartet by Hartmann, the 5th is with some music by Hindemith. The style is very different from Takacs 2, you may not like it. Less dramatic. I don't know either Vegh sets (they recorded them twice) very well.

If you haven't heard Zehetmair's Holliger 2, you're missing something.

« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 11:17:54 AM by Mandryka »
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Re: Bartok - The String Quartets
« Reply #59 on: September 30, 2014, 04:45:45 PM »
Yep, that's why they are at the bottom of my list. Although they might score hire in a blind test, I'm hesitant to add. :-)

I have the Emerson's 3rd stuck in my memory banks as the greatest thing I've ever heard. If you can find me a better 3, I can safely ditch the Emerson,... but... that 3... I'm sorry, at the 'cowbell' section they just send chills through me, I can smell the pine air- the cold mountainside- mmm... mmm...


I need a 1 and 2 that are separate. They have to be handled totally differently. But it's hard to get them together in good performances.


I used to love that Chiligrian 3,4,5...     what's the Perfect 3,4,5 disc?


6 I just don't care for yet.