Párkányí Quartet

Bartók: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

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Over the years, admirers of Béla Bartók's string quartets have had many worthy performances to choose from, and most have their preferred recordings, usually one of the excellent versions by the Juilliard, Takács, Emerson, Tokyo, or Végh quartets. But some as yet undecided may be won over to the Párkányí Quartet's SACD recordings because the performances are admirably energetic and the sound quality is simply astonishing. Not to take anything away from the brilliant and often profound recordings cited above, but the Párkányí's renditions of the String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40, and the String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Sz. 67, are lucid interpretations with sharp execution, resonant tone, and incredibly lifelike reproduction in the direct stream digital recording, so they have the potential to become favorites, especially among audiophiles who will enjoy the clear separation of parts and stunning string sonorities. There are some slight variances of tempos and dynamics that aficionados may quibble over, and the Párkányí Quartet occasionally slows down too often where other ensembles speed up, most noticeably in the Allegro vivace of the String Quartet No. 1 and the closing stretch of the Allegro molto capriccioso of the String Quartet No. 2 -- hair-raising passages that warrant much faster playing. However, the group on the whole is acute in attack and gripping in expression, thereby bringing off most of Bartók's intended effects and delivering the music with an authentic Hungarian flavor. Ultimately, many details that are only vaguely present in stereo recordings are startlingly clear in this multichannel presentation; it is exciting to find these colorful quartets appearing at last on super audio CD and one can only hope that future releases of these works will benefit from such advances in audio technology.

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