Bartók: String Quartets

Rubin Quartet

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Bartók: String Quartets Review

by Blair Sanderson

Béla Bartók's String Quartets (6) are not only touchstones of modern composition -- along with Shostakovich's 15, the greatest string quartets written since Beethoven's late masterpieces, and essential listening -- but they are also the acid test for any virtuoso quartet to prove its technical skills, expressive powers, and physical stamina. Since the Rubin Quartet's 2004 set faces fierce competition from many excellent recordings, notably those by the Takács, Emerson, and Juilliard Quartets, one needs an aesthetic yardstick to make a fair assessment. The Rubin's transparent tone quality, balanced ensemble, and poised expression in the youthful String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2 may remind listeners of the Juilliard's best recording (that of 1963 on Columbia), and the group's muscularity and objective clarity in the mature String Quartets Nos. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 may be compared favorably to the Emerson's strong and lucid cycle on Deutsche Grammophon. Yet the Rubin Quartet does not ignite the fires evident everywhere in the great Takács recording on London, and does not penetrate to the depths of grief that the ensemble achieves, particularly in the desolate Lento of No. 2 or in the Mesto ritornelli of the String Quartet No. 6. So this is a fine set for those of cooler temperament, though not the place to find real passion and intensity. Brilliant's sound is exceptional.

blue highlight denotes track pick