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Elliott Carter: The Four String Quartets / Duo for Violin & Piano - The Juilliard String Quartet / Christopher Oldfather

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Audio CD, September 26, 1991
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Editorial Reviews

These quartets are Juilliard specialties, and anyone wanting to hear this music played with a near ideal combination of virtuosity and humanity need look no further. Carter's quartets are not for the musically faint of heart: they are uncompromisingly thorny, intricate pieces that require lots of intense, dedicated listening. Very few people doubt their seriousness--or even their claims to musical greatness--but just as few people enjoy listening to them. Perhaps this spectacular set will encourage the adventurous to give them a shot. They're worth the time. --David Hurwitz

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. String Quartet No.1 (1951): I. Fantasia: Maestoso
  2. String Quartet No.1 (1951): I. Allegro scorrevole
  3. String Quartet No.1 (1951): II. Allegro scorrevole
  4. String Quartet No.1 (1951): II. Adagio - Variations
  5. String Quartet No.1 (1951): III. Variations
  6. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): Introduction
  7. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): I. Allegro fantastico
  8. Cadenza for Viola
  9. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): II. Presto scherzando
  10. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): Cadenza for Cello
  11. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): III. Andante espressivo
  12. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): Cadenza for Violin I
  13. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): IV. Allegro
  14. String Quartet No. 2 (1959): Conclusion

Disc: 2

  1. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): I
  2. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): II
  3. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): III
  4. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): IV
  5. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): V
  6. String Quartet No. 3 (1971): VI
  7. String Quartet No. 4 (1986): Appassionato
  8. String Quartet No. 4 (1986): Scherzando (stesso tempo)
  9. String Quartet No. 4 (1986): Lento (stesso tempo)
  10. String Quartet No. 4 (1986): Presto
  11. Duo For Violin And Piano (1974): I
  12. Duo For Violin And Piano (1974): II
  13. Duo For Violin And Piano (1974): III
  14. Duo For Violin And Piano (1974): IV
  15. Duo For Violin And Piano (1974): V

Product Details

  • Performer: Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Krosnick, Christopher Oldfather
  • Composer: Elliott Carter
  • Audio CD (September 26, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000027J7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,198 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Adam Greene on May 28, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Thus recording of Carter's first four quartets presents the music with warmth, clarity, and electricity. In 1991 I attended the release concert at Alice Tully Hall in New York, where the Julliards played all four quartets. It is a prodigious feat for any ensemble to play nearly two hours of dense, intricate, and technically challenging music such as this, but the intensity of their engagement never wavered, and the depth of their understanding was always evident. These characteristics are equally present in these recordings. Even the notorious Third Quartet, whose conflicting time streams makes coordination between players a transcendent business, manages to project a mercurial drammaturgy in Julliard's hands. This is a rare example of a technically virtuostic ensemble who, nevertheless, are devoted to projecting Carter's expressive language. These recordings are vastly superior to those by the Arditti Quartet, which sound stale by comparison. A notable distinction between the Julliard's rendition of the Third Quartet and those of the Composers Quartet and the aforementioned Arditti is that Julliard is the only group which did not employ a prerecorded click track to guide their performance. The others, either as a circumstance of time constraints in the recording process or sheer technical difficulty needed such a "crutch."
Robert Mann, the founding member of the Julliard Quartet and firt violinist, was well into his seventies when these recordings were made. His technical skills had not diminished - rhythm, intonation, and bowing are all first rate. More importantly the depth of experience and his long association with Carter were effectively transmitted to the other performers, and are manifested throughout the recording.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ian K. Hughes on August 12, 2000
Format: Audio CD
As far as I'm concerned, there is no one recording cycle that completely satisfies. However, I'd have to give the nod to the Arditti Quartet if for no other reason than this Julliard recording contains a vastly inferior interpretation of the 1st Quartet. Since that work is the key to getting inside of Elliott Carter's sound world ( I suppose one could argue for the Cello Sonata or Etudes for Woodwind Quartet ), it is crucial that a newcomer be introduced to a recording that does that particular piece justice. This is not the recording to do it. Coming from my experience with the Arditti and Composers Quartet versions, the 1993 Julliard is taken at too slow a tempo; the music seems bloated or bogged down and loses my attention. I'm not saying a newcomer couldn't possibly enjoy the performance; I just think the Arditti presents the music in a far better light. And I WOULD be surprised if those with prior experience with Carter prefer the 1994 Julliard interpretation of the 1st Quartet over the others previously recorded.
The Julliard's 2nd and 3rd Quartets are much more to my liking. However, they are completely blown away by their prior ( LP ) recordings of the same works in 1974 ( world premiere for the 3rd ), which are electrifying! I hope SONY considers releasing those recordings on CD at some point in the future.
RE the 4th; I've never warmed to this piece so I can't really say which ensemble takes pride of place. The Julliard haven't included the 5th Quartet ( 1995 ) since these sessions took place prior to Carter's completion of that work. The Arditti HAVE recorded it (Montaigne), making theirs the only complete cycle of Carter quartets available.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 22, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The Juilliard Quartet, with the supervision of Carter himself, recorded this version of the Four Quartets in 1991, only a few years after the Arditti Quartet had recorded them for Etcetera after touring with Carter. What a contrast!

The JQ performs these modernist masterpieces with a muscular, machine-like relentlessness, highlighting the structure. Their interpretation is masculine, in the traditional meaning of the word, while the AQ's interpretation is more lyrical and fluid, with broader vibrato, emphasizing feeling -- in a word, more traditionally feminine. If I had to choose one, I would take the Arditti performance, (and I agree that the JQ's tempo on the First is too slow) but they are both stellar.

However, there are other considerations. The recording quality of the Juilliard Quartet on Sony is magnificent, while the AQ on Etcetera is much less crisp and clear. And the JQ/Sony package is all you could ask for, with a 28-page booklet extensively explaining the works, even diagramming the notoriously complex Third Quartet.

I would hate to have to choose -- I heartily recommend both versions. But the JQ version, all things considered, has the best claim to being the "standard." You must hear it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By scarecrow VINE VOICE on August 11, 2000
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I stand somewhere in the center of all these reviews,it depends on what one expects to find in these Quartets, their "Visibility" factor. The First Quartet unquestionably broke vast amounts of conceptual ground in its originality and almost monumental in posture.The fast continuous treble,violin lines approaching utter madness although from a vastly different perspective than the European sensibility was music never heard before. Perhaps the last movement of Carter's "Piano Sonata" was a glimpse at this world. From that perspective the Juilliard here,especially with Krosnick's thick brooding cello timbre,gives/renders great weight to this First Quartet(1951),where de Sarem of Arditti has more a quicksilver,brighter,more wistful sound,not intending to blend with his brethren. To strike a judgemental posture the Arditti had recorded the Quartets during their first arduous backbreaking tour of the United States in 1988,with Carter,so I agree there is an opaqueness,a confused demeanor to their reading dating back to those times. But not any less compelling or fascinating,for their ferocious technique coerces them to transcend their lack of understadning through simply living with the work, there is no substitute for that. The Juilliard had lived longer with these works.
Juilliard here however reveals their sense of ultimate abandoned abstractedness in the Second Quartet(1959), a work which initially struck me as predating the First in gesture,scope and content. It is much more sparce,even dismal and bleak than the First Quartet without the overbearing weight and questioning violently spirit of the First.
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