Mikrokosmos String Quartet

Bartók: The Six String Quartets

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Some listeners may recall the time when the string quartets of Béla Bartók were the last word in musical modernism, and others may recall the time when they were overtaken by those of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern in the modernist sweepstakes, while yet others may recall the time when Shostakovich's quartets surpassed them all in popularity. These fluctuations in audience reaction do not in any way diminish the aesthetic quality of Bartók's quartets, and all it takes are great recordings of the works to reveal them as the masterpieces they are. These recordings by the Mikrokosmos String Quartet do not quite accomplish that, but they do come very close. With lean tone, tight ensemble, and an obvious feeling for the music, the Hungarian quartet is in many ways just right for these hard-edged works, and when the tempos are fast and the tone is heroic, the performances are as good as the best. But when the tempos slow and the mood is more mysterious, the quartet's clean attacks and quick releases reduce the interpretations' effectiveness. Still, as recorded in vivid super audio sound by Hungaroton, the performances should be welcomed by listeners who enjoy Bartók's string quartets.

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