The young and trendy duo of Moldavian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Turkish pianist Fazil Say rips deliriously into a highly enterprising program as if tomorrow were a chancy affair. It’s more than their hearts that they wear on their sleeves; they lay out their emotional guts in a dazzling display of virtuosity and breathtaking musical entertainment. At one moment in Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata, Kopatchinskaja’s racing along, clipping eighth notes in a furious rush to the finish; at the next she’s finding aphrodisiacal sweetness in a simple, two-bar ritardando. Say follows a pounding accompaniment with a phrase of sudden elegance worthy of the slow movement of the “Emperor” Concerto. In Bartók’s six “Romanian Folk Dances,” Kopatchinskaja sometimes rips her pizzicati with destructive force, sometimes plucks lyrically with wonderfully expressive grace. Perhaps she doesn’t throw off Ravel’s pretty little Sonata with enough casual cool, but in Say’s 13-minute Violin Sonata, she captures all the magic of its moonlit beauty.
The Végh Quartet was not only one of the finest string quartets from mid-twentieth century Europe, but its style was never subjected to radical change over the years from personnel changes because the four original players remained members for 38 of the 40 years of the ensemble's existence. Its style evolved in subtle ways, of course, but its essential character endured until 1978: the quartet was Central European in its sound, with a bit more prominence given to the cello in order to build tonal qualities from the bottom upward. The Végh Quartet was best known for its cycles – two each – of the Beethoven and Bartók quartets. It also performed and recorded many of the Haydn quartets, as well as numerous other staples of the repertory by Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Debussy. For a group that disbanded in 1980, its recordings are still quite popular, with major efforts available in varied reissues from Music & Arts, Archipel, Naïve, and Orfeo.
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for October marks the debut on the label by the Takács Quartet. After seventeen years recording for Decca, including multi-awarding-winning cycles of quartets by Beethoven and Bartók, this thrilling ensemble is now embarking on a new relationship with Hyperion; future projects will include works by Brahms, Janácek and Schumann. Schubert’s famous String Quartet, D810, subtitled ‘Death and the Maiden’, is one of the pillars of the repertoire. This new performance is electrifying, and was recorded following a global concert series, enthusiastically welcomed in the press: ‘The Takács’ reading of the second movement was characterized by unremitting pain and mystery.
The Hartmann, completed in 1933, shows the influence of Berg's Lyric Suite as well as Bartók's 1928 quartet, with which it shares this outstanding disc. Hartmann went into "inner exile" after the Nazi takeover, refusing to allow his work to be published or performed in Germany. Performed abroad, the quartet won a Swiss prize in 1936. It's a powerful work, with a dark, tragic opening that gives way to furious outbursts and energetic declamations. Making an immediate impact, it should not be missed, especially in the Zehetmair Quartet's spontaneous, tingling performance
These first complete recordings of the string quartets of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Zemlinsky have won numerous international awards and been hailed as landmarks in the discography of 20th-century music. Impeccable ensemble, superbly blended timbre and pure intonation ….This set [Schoenberg, Berg, Webern] is indeed a wonderful achievement (MusicWeb International). Febrile intensity and faultless proportioning of each formal structure [Zemlinsky] (Guardian).
“The Alban Berg bring all their usual sophistication and Viennese hothouse climate to works which are sometimes illuminated by them, and equally often obscured.” ~BBC Music Magazine
The Tokyo String Quartet is second to none in their interpretations of Beethoven's magnificent and incomparable quartets. Beethoven's early, middle and late quartets reveal the evolution of the great master and one can only speculate the enormous challenges the musicians must face to remain true to this titan of western music. My bet is that the Tokyo String Quartet meets the criteria!