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Best current string quartet

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Showing 1-25 of 102 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2012 5:03:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 5, 2013 3:04:49 PM PST
Which is the best string quartet currently active?

Here are some candidates - all 75 (or so) quartets mentioned on this thread so far:

Danish (formerly: The Young Danish String Quartet)
Fine Arts
KNM Berlin (Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin)
London Haydn
New Orford
Pavel Haas
St. Lawrence
St. Petersburg
Van Brugh
Vlach Quartet Prague

A competing list courtesy of Wiki:

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 5:08:15 AM PST
Two period - thirteen modern - I guess we have a long way to go before period practice is as common as among orchestras.

I can't contribute much on this thread myself, because the only string quartets of which I own multiple recordings are the Beethoven. But in Beethoven I like Emerson, Endellion and Artemis. I'm less thrilled by the Cleveland and Gewandhaus which both have quite a few followers here.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 5:53:21 AM PST
The Cleveland and Tokyo SQs have disbanded, no?

I'd vote for the Arditti Quartet, but they didn't make the list!

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 5:59:58 AM PST
David M. says:
In the limited repertoire I've heard them perform (Schoenberg, Korngold, Schubert), the Aron Quartett has been fantastic.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 6:04:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 6:05:59 AM PST

I think the Tokyo are still active - at least they have a recent Beethoven
cycle on Harmonia Mundi - here is a 2010 release:

Beethoven: The Late String Quartets; Grosse Fuge

The fact that Arditti and Aron didn't make the list only shows my ignorance! I will add them!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 6:37:42 AM PST
DavidRFoss says:
Rasmus Oerndrup says:
I think the Tokyo are still active
This is their last season. The 2nd violinist (joined 1974) and violist (last founding member from 1969) are both retiring. They were the last remaining Japanese members and only members who were with the group before 2000. They decided to disband the quartet rather than look for replacements.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 7:08:14 AM PST
Thanks, David, that clears up the question.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:24:19 AM PST
The Pavel Haas Quartet aren't bad either, and worth adding to the list above. Likewise the Vermeer Quartet, whose Bartok set on Naxos I very much enjoy. I haven't been able to hear much else from them, though.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:25:52 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:38 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:32:38 AM PST
MacDoom says:

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:39:21 AM PST
Incidentally a re-release of interest to some, I hope - The Talich Quartet's Beethoven cycle, originally on Calliope, now available as:

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 7:41:40 AM PST
K. G. says:
I would add the Cuarteto Latinoamericano to the list. For those who are unfamiliar with them, they're the resident quartet at Carnegie Mellon University, and they have been responsible for making essentially definitive recordings of quite a bit of 20th-century and contemporary Latin American music, including the complete quartets of Villa-Lobos, Revueltas, and Ginastera, and works by Celso Garrido-Lecca, Federico Ibarra, Mario Lavista, Julian Orbon, Roberto Sierra, Aurelio Tello, and others. They have also recorded works by George Crumb, David Stock, Reza Vali, and Nancy Galbraith, among other non-Latin American composers. I have yet to hear another group in this repertoire who can match the Cuarteto in their technical accomplishment and magnificent sense of musicality - their interpretations are always effortlessly fluent in any of the wide range of musical styles they cover. I was lucky enough to see them live in Philadelphia a few years ago and they were equally strong in person as in the studio. I would say that without a doubt they deserve to be taken into consideration as a world-class ensemble.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 8:39:43 AM PST
Thomas E. says:
One of my favourites is the Vertavo Quartet. They've recorded Bartok, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Grieg, Schumann and a few lesser known composer like Alf Hurum, Kjell Mřrk Karlsen and Nils Henrik Asheim. They also have an album with Russian miniatures for string quartet. An all-female group with a very lush, colourful tone.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 8:48:23 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 8:52:11 AM PST
WH says:
For me:

1. Takacs Quartet. Notable recordings: Beethoven: The Late String Quartets; Béla Bartók: The 6 String Quartets - Takács Quartet; Schubert: String Quintet D.956, Quartettsatz D.703 (Hyperion, 2012) (A great new performance!)

2. Pavel Haas Quartet. Notable recordings: Janacek, Haas: String Quartets; Dvorak: String Quartets Op. 106 & 96 'American' (won Gramophone's "Record of the Year")

3. Arditti Quartet. Notable recordings: György Ligeti Edition 1: String Quartets and Duets - Arditti String Quartet.

4. Pacifica Quartet. An up and coming group. Dazzling new performances of Shostakovich: The Soviet Experience, Vol. 1 - String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and his Contemporaries (Cedille, 2011); The Soviet Experience, Vol. 2 - String Quartets by Shostakovich and his contemporaries (Cedille, 2012)

5. Quatuor Ebene. Their Ravel / Debussy is nothing short of genius: Ravel, Debussy & Fauré String Quartets; Mozart: Dissonances / String Quartets KV 421 & 465 / Divertimento KV 138.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 9:04:16 AM PST
Edgar Self says:
I've no idea, as I've only heard a few. But I've enjoyed and been moved more by hearing the Pacific Quartet live about ten times now than by any other in my life. ... Shostakovich and Beethven.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 11:26:16 AM PST
There's also the Alexander Quartet, which recently issued a superb traversal of the Beethoven Quartets:

Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets


Posted on Nov 20, 2012 11:46:22 AM PST
Thanks everybody, I have added all the quartets mentioned to my initial post.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 4:15:06 AM PST
Nada says:
Hi, Rasmus.

Here are some more current string quartets:

- Athena Quartet: Kurtag; listening samples:

- Aviv Quartet: Schulhoff: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 or Dohnanyi: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 3

- Brodsky String Quartet: Shostakovich [there's also a new CD with SQs by John Joubert which I think should be very interesting ...]

- Cypress String Quartet: Benjamin Lees.
I hope they will record also the new string quartet by Philippe Hersant, one of my favorite contemporary composers. They premiered it sometime this year during their annual "Call & Response" program (which is intended to create "a dynamic dialogue between past and present"). Hersant has been the first international composer to participate. Program 2012: Haydn, Beethoven, Hersant. Program 2013: Dvorak, Schubert, Higdon. See their website under: special projects.

- Danish String Quartet (formerly: The Young Danish String Quartet): Nielsen

- Edinger Quartet: Eduard Franck: String Quartets, Opp. 54 & 55

- Goldner String Quartet: for example Bridge, Bloch piano quintets together with Piers Lane

- Henschel Quartett: for example Mendelssohn; Ginastera. See also the reviews to their Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Schulhoff, Sibelius, Janacek, Trojahn et al. at:

- Martinu Quartet: of course Martinu; but also Tomas Svoboda

- Navarra Quartet: Vasks: String Quartets 1-3, [also a few by Haydn, Ravel, Shostakovich]

- Nightingale String Quartet: Langgaard: String Quartets 1

- Quatuor Diotima: for example: Lucien Durosoir: Quatuors ŕ cordes; Schönberg/Berg/Webern String Quartet & The Voice; Posadas and other contemporary composers [also Onslow - which I don't have yet]

- Quatuor Ysaye Albéric Magnard, Gabriel Fauré: String Quartets [as far as I know this one is now only distributed by the quartet's own label Ysaye]

- Sonar Quartet: Katzer [the new Walter Zimmermann with Sonar Quartet is on my wish list]

- St. Lawrence String Quartet: Golijov: Yiddishbbuk

- Utrecht String Quartet: for example Lourié: 3 String Quartets / Duo for Violin & Viola or van Delden [check also their Glazunov recordings, which are highly praised])

- Wieniawski String Quartet (Krzysztof Meyer)

I don't know whether these groups are still active:
- Maggini Quartet (mostly English repertoire: Britten, Bridge, Vaughan Williams, Walton etc.)
- Kontra Quartet (Holmboe)
- Quatuor Debussy (Lekeu; Bonnal) [there seems to exist also a Shostakovich cycle]

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 4:25:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 4:28:33 AM PST
The Maggini Quartet are still very active!

As are the Kontras, are the Debussys.

Each has their own website.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 5:14:01 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:39 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 5:39:21 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 5:50:03 AM PST

Thank you for the list. I will add those - too bad I didn't list them alphabetically to begin with as you have done.

One more:
Klenke Quartet
(has recorded Mozart, Haydn and Tchaikovsky for Profil)

and a maybe still active:
Cherubini Quartet

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 5:47:36 AM PST
BTW Nada, I am glad you mentioned The (Young) Danish Sting Quartet. I was reluctant to do so myself, since it could be considered a bit chauvanistic as I am Danish myself.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 6:05:09 AM PST
HB says:
"I'm less thrilled by the Cleveland and Gewandhaus which both have quite a few followers here."

I had never heard of the Gewandhaus Quartet until NML became available. I find the group to be one of the most musical quartets I have ever heard.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 6:51:34 AM PST
Nada says:
Cute 'n Cuddly Bartok -
thanks for the confirmation, especially the Maggini, whom I'm very fond of. Yet I didn't follow all their recordings and have been disappointed with CDs by Rubbra Edmund Rubbra: String Quartet No. 2; Amoretti and Peter Maxwell Davies: Naxos Quartets 1 & 2, but that is more to blame on the composers ... - Now I'll watch out for them more closely. And their recordings of Britten, Bridge, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Moeran, Bax, Bliss, Elgar do them proud.

March Eliot -
re: Henschel. I wouldn't dare to say they are the best. But: they are good. - Well, I might be a bit prejudiced, as I've seen/heard them live several times. Each year there is a summer concert series in a small town nearby which includes a small "string-festival" (three consecuting evenings): always with the Henschel Quartet, and always in cooperation with another string quartet, so they play sextets and octets as well. I've never been disappointed. And I get the impression that international reviews of their recordings are praising them more and more.

Rasmus Oerndrup -
I don't think there is a slightest hint of chauvinistic behaviour when talking about performers of one's own nationality. It's natural that one gets to know them - through the media - much earlier and easier than foreign ones. And if they are good - no need to be quiet ... For example I couldn't imagine to talk about string quartets and leaving out the Leipziger Streichquartett, for they are extraordinary good (for me). But they had already been mentioned ... - For me a chauvinistic behaviour would be if one does not respect performers from other countries.
(For putting the list into an alphabetical order you could copy and paste it into your word program, have it sorted alphabetically (probably under: extras; just one click) and copy and paste it back.)
In the meantime I remembered also that the Quatuor Danel with some Weinberg string quartets is on my still-to-listen-to-staple. Reviews aren't bad, either.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 7:01:40 AM PST
MacDoom says:

Sorry to steal the Leipzigers off you, but you paid me back with the Utrecht, which I really should have mentioned as I like them so much. Then again, I felt the same as Rasmus: I might be prejudiced extolling the virtues of (former) countrymen...

Utrecht and Leipzig are both with MDG and both recorded fabulously. Coincidence? I rather think not.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
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Initial post:  Nov 20, 2012
Latest post:  Feb 4, 2013

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