Chilingirian Quartet

Bartók: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2, Opp. 7 & 17

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The Chilingirian Quartet's recordings of Bartók's quartets may not be the finest, but they provide a few insights that others performances miss. In the String Quartet No. 1, the Chilingirian builds strong momentum, even from the beginning of the Lento. There is no hesitancy in the contrapuntal flow, and the dissonances are slightly emphasized to steadily push the lines onward. The form of the quartet is aided by this propulsion, since acceleration appears to be the work's underlying strategy. The Allegretto is tied to the finale's Introduzione, oddly making it the second movement's conclusion. The Allegro is taken very fast, and its excitement is heightened by dramatic shifts in tempo and dynamics. The String Quartet No. 2 is more oblique in its structure and requires a subtler interpretation. The opening of the Moderato is faster than its marking suggests, but this serves the movement's sonata form: the recapitulation is taken at a more relaxed pace and is thus differentiated from the exposition. The Allegro molto capriccioso is appropriately brisk, but it lacks the necessary aggression that would make it the fierce scherzo Bartók intended. The Lento is perhaps too impassioned and hurried, though it is given a continuity of line that keeps it from sounding inordinately sectional.

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