Relatively speaking, string quartets are cheap to record. Compared with the price of recording a full-blown romantic symphony orchestra or, even more expensive, a full-blown romantic opera, the price of sitting four string players down in a studio and recording them is negligible. Thus the proliferation of string quartet recordings in the early years of the twenty first century, when the money for recording symphonies and operas dwindled down to a trickle. Unfortunately, just because there were more string quartet recordings doesn't mean that there were better string quartet recordings. Too often, young quartets record before they have the chance to cohere into a unified ensemble and the results are often well-intentioned but unsatisfying.
Not so in this debut release by the Daedalus Quartet, a release as fully satisfying as some of the best quartet recordings ever made. Led by the brother and sister team of Min-Young Kim and Kyu-Young Kim alternating on first violin, Jessica Thompson on viola, and Raman Ramakrishnan on cello, the Daedalus is a cogent, compelling, and wholly individualistic quartet. Although they have chosen fairly standard repertoire for their debut -- the quartets by Sibelius and Ravel plus the Three Pieces for string quartet by Stravinsky -- they grant each work the benefit of their unique insights along with the kind of strong, sensitive playing that is the hallmark of great musicianship. In their hands, Sibelius' dark night of the soul quartet is colorful, driven, and shot through with impending doom, Stravinsky's mordant and modernist Three Pieces are angular, edgy, and oddly graceful, and Ravel's supremely polished quartet is elegant, reserved and deeply moving. While old-timers will already have their favorite recordings of these works, anyone who loves great quartet playing should check out the Daedalus Quartet. Bridge's sound is lush, rich, and detailed.