Euclid Quartet

Bartók: String Quartets Nos. 2, 4 & 6

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In the middle of its project to record all six of the string quartets of Béla Bartók, the Euclid Quartet has released a CD of the String Quartets No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6, half of the cycle and, oddly enough, what would be expected on a second volume, not the first. Be that as it may, this is an exciting recording that admirers of the Bartók quartets will relish, no doubt anticipating a follow-up album of the remaining No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5, and making comparisons with other great recordings and great quartets while they listen. If two outstanding ensembles come to mind as possible influences on the Euclid Quartet, or at least as worthy exemplars, the Juilliard String Quartet and the Takács String Quartet appear to have had a strong effect on this group's thinking and interpretations of Bartók's music. With a group as technically assured as the Euclid Quartet obviously is, and as fully versed in the intricacies of these works, one can move past the usual questions about managing the difficulties these pieces present and advance directly to the matter of whether they have grasped Bartók's spirit. In the same way that the Juilliard captured the bite of Bartók's avant-garde counterpoint, and the Takács grasped the fire of the folk music that informed him, the Euclid has a firm hold on both the music's modernist and the folklorist elements. This quartet has made quite a leap from its previous recording of the late Romantic string quartets of the Moravian composer Hugo Kauder to the acerbic and brooding quartets of Bartók, but this body of works -- a veritable bible of extended string techniques -- has become the acid test of most virtuoso quartets, and the Euclid Quartet has demonstrated that it is pure gold in these spectacular performances. Artek has provided exceptional sound, with a wonderfully resonant ambience that takes nothing away from the strings' penetrating colors.

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