In the '50s, there was a string quartet for everybody. For the traditionalist, there was the Austro-Anglo Amadeus Quartet. For the sentimentalist, there was the Hungarian-Russo-American Budapest Quartet. And for the modernist there was the New York, NY, Juilliard Quartet. In the '50s, the group's Bartók quartets were on every Danish modern coffee table and its Schoenberg quartets were in front of every Picasso print. Surprisingly, the Juilliard Quartet musicians were also masters when it came to the Viennese High Classical composers, and, even more surprisingly, they remained faithful to their modernist performance style even in that repertoire. On this disc assembling recordings of Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert from 1957 and 1959, the playing is supremely polished, but also clean and without affectation. The tone is deeply burnished, but cool and without sentimentality. The interpretations are dedicated, but objective, compelling but clear-eyed. If a traditionalist might say the Juilliard Quartet lacks understanding of the style and a sentimentalist might say it lacks sympathy for the music, a modernist and Buddhist would say that detachment is crucial for true compassion. Columbia's sound is antique but honest.
Review by James Leonard
|String Quartet No. 19 in C major ("Dissonant"), K. 465|
|String Quartet No. 57 in C major, Op. 74/1, H. 3/72|
|String Quartet No. 66 in G major, Op. 77/1, H. 3/81|