Keller Quartet

Cantante e Tranquillo

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Cantante e Tranquillo Review

by James Manheim

This is not a new release by Hungary's Keller Quartet but an anthology of earlier recordings (plus a couple of new ones), among the few examples of such a thing in the ECM label's catalog. It is not a greatest-hits selection, but a group of recordings united by the titular Cantante e tranquillo theme: it is a collection of slow movements, bookended by a pair of performances of the movement with that title from Beethoven's String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135. Along the way is a little Ligeti, a little Schnittke, a little Bach, and a whole lot of György Kurtág, from two different versions of the Keller Quartet, lightly tied together by correspondences and references among the works. It does not make a deep kind of sense, but it's an attractive hour of music that could provide a meatier alternative (or complement) to the more sentimental collections of slow movements that abound on the market. The appeal is enhanced by the sound, which shows just how good ECM's sound was as early as 1990; it is less a question of strong remastering than of recordings that sounded great in the first place.

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