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American String Quartets 1950-1970

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 26, 1995
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$120.00 $27.99

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. String Quartet: 92
  2. String Quartet: 144
  3. String Quartet
  4. String Quartet In Four Parts: Quietly Flowing Along
  5. String Quartet In Four Parts: Slowly Rocking
  6. String Quartet In Four Parts: Nearly Stationary
  7. String Quartet In Four Parts: Quodlibet
  8. Quartet No. 3 For String Quartet And Electronic Tape
  9. Summer

Disc: 2

  1. Black Angels (Images) For Electric String Quartet: Departure: Tutti, Threnody I - Night Of The Electric Insects; Trio, Sounds Of Bones And Flutes; Duo, Lost Bells; Solo, Cadenza accompagnata Devi-Music; Duo, Dance Macabre (Due Alternative: Dies Irae)
  2. Black Angles (Images) For Electric String Quartet: Absence (Crumb)
  3. Black Angles (Images) For Electric String Quartet: Return (Crumb)
  4. String Quartet No 5: Theme I (Hiller)
  5. String Quartet No 5: Variations (Hiller)
  6. String Quartet No 5: Theme II (Hiller)
  7. String Quartet No 5: Varitaions (Hiller)
  8. String Quartet No 5: Theme III (Hiller)
  9. String Quartet No 5: Variations (Hiller)
  10. String Quartet No 5: Theme IV (Hiller)
  11. String Quartet No 2: (Druckman)
  12. Structures for String Quartet (Feldman)

Product Details

  • Performer: Concord String Quartet
  • Composer: Stefan Wolpe, Earle Brown, John [1] Cage, Leon Kirchner, Christian Wolff, et al.
  • Audio CD (September 26, 1995)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Vox (Classical)
  • ASIN: B000001K50
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,062 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By scarecrow VINE VOICE on April 5, 2000
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a great showcase of the American string quartet,innovation,vision,iconoclasm,all elements which we often overlook and forget easily.But only Elliot Carter is missing, and that's because he has what! Five Quartets now.Inclusion of the First Carter would have rounded things out. The Earle Brown here is a neglected masterwork. Based on graphic notation the performers don't improvise so much as are given entrance freedoms within a prescribed range. The affect can be mysterious,haunting,also innovative with a wide pallette of extended techniques, at the bridge, sul ponticello,plucking. We often forget the traditional beauty Cage engaged the early part of his career, the Forties. This Quartet is a fine consummate example of that,with soft,gentle lines, very sparce, and transparent,also he limits himself to a few tones,tossed around the various voices. Structures by Feldman is an early work here, the Quartet is treated as one monolith sound,indistinguishable voices playing harmonics,cello playing where the violin plays, same range. All of Feldman's floating gentleness is here as well,perhaps too much at times,like it overspends its welcome. Crumb's Black Angels is another classic, The Kronos has takened this around the block many times, Crumb always works well with a programmatic agenda in place, and here he transforms the Quartets introspective consititution to more a drammatic focus. Druckman as well also works well with a program but here there is none. He has a fine imagination for sonoric structures,balance,but its doesn't seem to amount to much. The Wolpe is one of his best works. His creativity was uneven, here the violence and charged motives he is found of are in place to jump, and reiterate, toss around in an environment of high energy.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Excellent performances all around, from the quietude of Feldman and Cage to the hair-raising chill of Crumb's "Black Angels." This "Black Angels" recording is particulaly significant as it has the difficult portion where the participating string players start to go out of tune during the "Death and the Maiden" section, which, as far as I know, is unique in all the recordings of this piece. Great pioneer recordings which will take a long time to better.
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Format: Audio CD
Man, it's discouraging to see people piddling all over music like this. 1950-65 was a great era for American culture; sure the European influence was lingering but American composers (and artists and filmmakers) were finding a voice, an expression of some quality uniquely American that had never appeared before. American music could be something other than Hoe-Downs, Charlestons, and Nearer my God to Thee (sorry, Charles, and you know I love you anyway). This was a taut and crisp intellectual America that was finally gaining ascendancy, something new to the world, brilliant and beautiful. I think of a wonderful photo of Elliott Carter with Stravinsky in New York at some gallery or concert hall circa 1960 or so. Stravinsky looks old and seedy, like a Russian refugee even though he had years to ditch that; Carter, alert and in a sharp suit, looks like the future-on-the-half-shell. It all got blown out of the water by 60s and 70s-era lack of standards and discrimination and an unwillingness to TRY. Sixties-era, anti-culture crapola that still reigns supreme. To much pot. Hippies ruined everything.

What's startling about the bad review is these quartets are hardly over-intellectualized. In fact most are quite beautiful or evocative; the Cage stunningly so. The LPs this collection came off were among my favorites of that era and I doubt a better or more nightmarish Black Angels has ever been done despite recent attempts by Kronos and others. Amazing playing by committed performers. A deal and a bargain.

For ten bucks this is like gold for free. Have at it!
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Format: Audio CD
It's almost laughable not to pick up this disc. The price alone makes the set worth it. Added to that the fact that many of these works are not available in other forms and this disc is a no-brainer for fans of the late 20th century string quartet. The sampling transcends styles, from the almost improvisatory sonic canvas of Earle Brown, to the surprisingly beautiful almost minimal quartet of Cage, the horrific depiction of war in Crumb's justly famous Black Angels, or the almost traditional sounding Schonbergisms of Stepan Wolpe, this is an eclectic collection and well worth the modest investment.
I won't review everything on the album, as there is just too much. Highlights for me include the Earle Brown quartet, which is one of Brown's strongest early works. Since Brown is poorly represented on CD, every release of his is worth having, but the Second Quartet is a masterwork of tonal subtlety. Cage's Quartet was written just before he moved into his more aleatoric phase. It is highly modal and almost a precusor to minimlism, a very pleasing work that should be more widely known. Christian Wolff is also a composer who is underrepresented on CD (though Mode is quickly redressing the imbalance.) Summer is also a protominimalist work, based on stark 5ths. The reading of Black Angels is good, though not anything to supplant the Kronos reading, which is still my favorite. Also interesting are Quartets by Wolpe and Leon Kirchner.
So if you have any interest in American string work of the late 20th century, you need this disc. It is indispensible and very beautifully played. And the Vox Box price is unbeatable.
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