Arcadia String Quartet

Janácek: The Two String Quartets

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Leos Janácek's two string quartets have found a permanent place in the repertoire and they are ranked with the great chamber works of the early 20th century. Even so, the eccentricity of his methods and his highly personal and enigmatic expressions make them more than a little challenging to newcomers. It takes a highly communicative ensemble to give the String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, "The Kreutzer Sonata," and the String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters," the necessary sense of form and the appropriate emotions to leave a strong and meaningful impression. The Arcadia Quartet has mastered the unusual techniques and tone colors Janácek requires, so the quartets are played with skill and energy and the effects and timbres are brilliant. What is harder to assess is the emotional weight of these performances, which perhaps requires subjective judgments. The Arcadia Quartet certainly throws itself into these works with bravado, so there's no discounting the effort, but the music doesn't open up easily or give out its secrets. One can listen to this album repeatedly and still feel that the expression falls victim to the execution, and that the Arcadia Quartet hasn't touched the music's core in either work. Yet the forward placement of the instruments and the clarity of the recording make these renditions utterly transparent and easy to follow, so discovering what makes them tick may well be the listener's task.

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