Concord String Quartet

American String Quartets, 1950-1970

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Covering the most fertile decades of the avant-garde movement in the United States, American String Quartets, 1950-1970 is a comprehensive survey of the most influential works in this concentrated genre. Broadly divided, these quartets represent either the full-flowering of post-Webern serialism or the more esoteric, philosophical conceptions of the group associated with John Cage. Several rely on tone rows and serial methods, notably the intensely organized quartets of Stefan Wolpe, Jacob Druckman, and Lejaren Hiller's controlled experiment with quarter tones. The works of Cage, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, and Morton Feldman are more freely derived, and their ideas range from the extreme pointillism of Wolff's Summer to the proto-ambience of Feldman's Structures. Somewhat outside the serial/intuitive dichotomy are Leon Kirchner's String Quartet No. 3 and George Crumb's Black Angels. Both are augmented with electronic sounds or additional instruments, and the coloristic possibilities of the quartet are expanded in these innovative pieces. The Concord String Quartet made its debut with this recording, and it is wholly persuasive. Although its reading of Black Angels was arguably surpassed by the Kronos Quartet, the rest of the performances may be considered definitive. The digital transfer of the analog tapes is clean, but the original VoxBox LPs may be preferred for their warmer sound.

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