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Bartok/Julliard String Quartet Import

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 22, 2007
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Product Details

  • Performer: Juilliard String Quartet
  • Composer: Bartók
  • Audio CD (May 22, 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000P6RB88
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,389 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Despite the picture on the slipcase, this is the 1963 recording of the cycle, with Mann, Cohen, Hillyer, and Adam. In fact, inside the slipcase is the 2001 French Sony release of the 1963 cycle in a slimline jewel box. Quartet No. 4 is split across the 2 discs.

The transfers sound very good to my ears, at least compared to my CBS Masterworks Lps.
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It is curious that these renowned and revered performances are not more freely available; I was thrilled to find a set in Paris some years ago. Although there are a number of excellent sets of the Bartok cycle (Vegh, Tackas, Hungarian (DG) and Tokyo), the Juilliard easily belongs in their company. The Juilliard recorded these quartets on three occasions and this is their second and best attempt. This set has long been acclaimed and rightly so. The performances of this difficult music are technically immaculate and impassioned.

The Bartok Quartets are difficult but approachable; they require concentrated listening. I must admit that knowing their complexity via a Hungarian musician friend, I cannot pretend to have fully plumbed their depths yet.

The sound on these discs is dry but clear with an accurate bass response. It is a pity that the 4th quartet is split between 2 discs. Definitely worth exploring.
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I'm grateful to the reviewer Daverz for sharing that these are the 1963 recordings. I also thought this was another reissue of the Juilliard Quartet's 80's digital recordings (not so good). I've wanted this recording for a long time. There are many fine recordings of these quartets--among my favorites are the Alban Berg Quartett, the Emerson Quartet and the Takacs Quartet, all played immaculately and recorded well--but there's a sense of discovery and improvisation when I hear the Juilliard Quartet play these works. I remember Leonard Bernstein saying that when he was "in the zone" (my words, not his), he felt as if he were creating the music as he conducted it. That's how these performaces feel to me. The works feel brand new, with the freshness of compositions in progess or premiere performances. The recorded sound is very good, as good as any analog recordings of the Juilliard Quartet I've heard. It's honest, up-close, early stereo sound that has an intimacy to it.

I don't know why quartet #4 is split between the two disks when quartets 1,2 & 4 could have been on disk #1 and 3,5 & 6 on disk #2. Maybe the objective was to keep them in chronological order. If it bugs me, I'll just make a CD-R of #4 on a single disk. Meanwhile, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy ride as the Juilliard Quartet introduces me to Bartok for the first time again.
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.. get it! And if you can find the Fine Arts Quartet recordings (originally on Concert Disc lps) from a few years earlier, get those, too.

I copied my lp set to CDs, putting quartets 3,4,and 5 together on the second of 3 discs; the third disc holds the 6th Quartet, coupled with a Rudolph Barshai recording of Bartok's Divertimento for Strings, duplicating the program of the 3-disk Tatrai set of Bartok quartets.

I give 4 stars for breaking the 4th quartet over two discs. Musically, if this measures up to the lps on most equipment, it deserves 5 stars.
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Arkivmusic.com has reissued the famed "1963" recording for $24.99 - this a real bargain since Sony/BMG doesn't seem to have any interest in remastering and releasing this set domestically. I wish the great producers and engineers from the 50s and 60s were still around to prod the major labels in remastering and reissuing more, much more, of the treasures in their valuts since so many contemporary recordings are simply second tier. I suppose we're spoiled by our recorded past - that's why Arkivmusic.com is so important (and, no, I am in no way affiliated with them).
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