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Glass: String Quartets, Nos. 1-4

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Although Philip Glass came late to
the string quartet, his contribution
to the genre has since become a
significant one. This disc features
the first four of his five quartets,
ranging from the uncharacteristic
yet fascinating sound-world of the
First, through the compact
dimensions of the subsequent two
(themselves derived from theatre
and film scores). The more
expansive manner of his Fourth
Quartet makes allusions to the
formidable string quartet heritage,
in particular those of Schubert
and Dvorak.

Review

Philip Glass' two-movement 1966 First quartet bears gestural seeds of the repetitive style for which he's both deified and derided, although its dissonant idiom is light years removed from what we normally associate with this composer. Imagine late Shostakovich with the proverbial needle stuck in the groove (pardon my outdated vinyl LP reference!), or a louder, more loquacious Morton Feldman, and you'll get the idea.

Quartets 2 and 3 derive from theatrical scores. The Second comprises four brief interludes for Mabou Mines' staging of Samuel Beckett's prose-poem Company, and largely center around the key of A minor. Sound cues from Glass' soundtrack to Paul Schrader's film Mishima make up the Third's five movements. By contrast, the Fourth's three movements are larger in scale and more ambitious in terms of harmonic and textural scope. In fact, the first movement's long C major double-stop sequences wouldn't be out of place in Dvorák, while Beethoven's spirit seems to inform the third movement's sudden dynamic dips and surprising silences.

The Carducci Quartet more than holds its own in this repertoire alongside the Kronos and Smith Quartets. They match the Smith's tonal ripeness and dynamic breadth in No. 1, but with more liberal vibrato all around and stronger rhythmic accentuation in the first movement's climax. The Carducci's bass-oriented blend and somewhat statuesque treatment of the Second's third movement and the Third's finale markedly differ from the Kronos' lighter, more conversational repartee. On the other hand, the Carduccis bring more shapely profile to the accompanying patterns and sustained violin melodies of the Fourth's second movement than either of their estimable colleagues. And in No. 2's churning finale, the Carduccis strike a happy medium between the Kronos' delicate inner "swing" and the Smith's relatively austere, immaculately controlled soft textures.

Naxos' resonant ambient warmth suits this ensemble's sonority, although my own tastes lean toward the drier sonic intimacy Nonesuch provides for Kronos. What's most important is just how well Glass' quartets make an impact through different interpretive perspectives, and the Carducci Quartet deserves nothing less than a solid recommendation, with the promise that they'll record Glass' Fifth quartet as well. -Jed Distler -- Classics Today- http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=12836

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Product Details

  • Conductor: --
  • Composer: Philip Glass
  • Audio CD (June 29, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B003IP2YIA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,727 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
While I am not a rabid Philip Glass fan, I do enjoy his music and believe him to be an important composer of the last third century. But this recording of four string quartets by Glass has taken me quite by surprise. It is almost as though writing for string quartet elicited from the composer a care for the qualities and capabilities of the ensemble that makes this music very appealing to me.

I was less enamored of the first quartet which dates from 1966 and struck me as music that could have been written for any combination of instruments, almost begging for a Webern-like woodwind treatment. But the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quartets, written between 1983 and 1989, found me entirely convinced by this music qua string quartet. Each made me wish it would go on longer than it did, very much the way Schubert sometimes does. I often found myself thinking of Schubert as I listened, not because the music sounds like Schubert, perhaps because Glass seems very comfortable in his skin with these pieces in a way that recalls Schubert to mind when he is at his most eloquent.

The Carducci String Quartet play wonderfully well and with great tonal sensitivity. They too seem to be responding to the quality of the writing for their combination of instruments, their tempi and balances are perfection, and the music at their hands has life, direction and great subtlety.

The recording itself is outstanding. There is a compelling, sometimes caressing, physical presence about it that envelopes the listener, very beautiful, very comforting. I don't believe I have enjoyed a performance by a string quartet this much in a very long time.

Another winning compact disc from NAXOS American Classics.
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Format: Audio CD
This album features four of Glass' five quartets, offering splendidly committed, fresh and exciting performances from the Carducci Quartet, an award-winning young chamber group. His Quartet No.2 'Company', a darkly-toned and emotionally moving meditation, has a starker, more naked presence than the orchestral versions of this, and feels all the more appropriate. The three remaining quartets are much longer: No3 'Mishima' celebrates the life and death of the Japanese writer and playwright, and is suitably throbbing with melodies which embrace life and colour, yet with a elegiac conclusion. His No.1 Quartet is from 1966, and is a much more difficult and astringent piece, very atypical of his work now.
The real surprise here is Quartet No.4 'Buczak', a vibrant, fresh and searching quartet which, though never free of Glass' trademark preference for melody and pulse, is nevertheless much closer to a 'classical' quartet, recalling memories of Dvorak, amongst others. This beautifully played lyrical piece has melody to spare, and the excitement of new country being explored, and was a beguiling and unexpected delight. Well worth acquiring.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Naxos does hits and misses, inevitable I suppose with all the music they put out. Glass is good, but don't expect to hear the all the instruments distinctly here. For whatever reason naxos often opts to play quartets in big echoey churches, as is this quartet music. Thus the music is on the bassy side. It is enjoyable still, just not as accessible as say, his violin concerto. Really, If you want quality Glass, your gonna have to fork a few more bucks down and buy the Kronos recording which I don't own, but I know sounds more clearer. That's what I do, I let people know about sound quality, because in classical music, that means more than in other types of music. Buy this only if your a die hard glass fan and you can't or don't wanna buy kronos version. It takes some getting use to be, but it can be enjoyed.
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Format: Audio CD
I am not a big fan of Philip Glass, but these quartets were quite appealing to me. True, they possessed a minimalist aspect to them, with much repetitive structures. In opera, minimalism creates boredom. It does just the opposite in the string quartets, creating a relaxed, meditative atmosphere. Yet, Glass maintains enough character to the overall flow of the pieces to lend character and distinction to each movement and each quartet. This made listening a joy rather than a matter of endurance. These quartets are a "must hear" for anybody who enjoys the whole panoply of classic music.
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