Elliott Carter holds the distinction not only of being one of the most prolific composers of the twentieth (and indeed twenty first) century, but also one of the longest living. Born in 1908, the release of this 2008 album marks the beginning of his 100th year as an active member of the musical community. What better way to celebrate such an achievement than with a strong performance of two of his most significant contributions to chamber music: the first and fifth string quartets. The first quartet, composed in 1951, marks Carter's first true venture into his own compositional language without regard for past conventions or the technical difficulties of the work. Following on the heels of his cello sonata, it's no wonder this quartet should open with an extended cello solo. The members of the Pacifica Quartet deftly handle all of Carter's demands and do so while maintaining the work's sense of musicality rather than transforming it into a mere technical exercise. The same could be said of the Fifth Quartet; written more than four decades later, it is Carter's self-proclaimed "farewell" to the explorations of the previous four. Its 12 movements require players to quickly change moods and characters while maintaining the flow from movement to movement, each of which lasts less than two minutes. The Pacifica Quartet's exceptional musical and technical skills again give listeners a highly satisfying, cohesive performance of this complex work that is often as difficult for listeners as it is for musicians.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 1|
|String Quartet No. 5|