Ariel Quartet

Brahms: String Quartet No. 2; Bartók: String Quartet No. 1

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The young Ariel Quartet, based at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, has garnered strong reviews for impassioned performances of mainstream repertory. With this, their first album, they make a bid to join the ranks of the internationally prominent quartets of Middle America, and the signs are very good. With regard to the program, the graphics refer to an indistinct dissatisfied quality in linking Brahms and Bartók, but there are deeper connections than that, and the Ariel Quartet brings them out. Both composers had to deal with the example of Beethoven, still overwhelming a century later in Bartók's case, and both experimented with ways, quite distinct from each other, of integrating folk influences into strict forms. The Bartók String Quartet No. 1, Sz 40, not as often performed as the later ones, fares especially well in this context, with its passionate quality (the work shares a good deal with the Violin Concerto No. 1, for both were directed toward an unattainable young violinist) straining against demands of coherence, announced at the beginning by a Beethovenian fugue. Sample any of the three connected movements. The sound from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, one of the country's best chamber music venues acoustically, fits the group's aims. Strongly recommended.

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