In its debut album on the Centaur label, the Serafin String Quartet presents an assortment of compositions that they refer to in their liner notes as "Quartet American Style." Though the group discusses the many components that make up the broad scope of American art music, there's no definitive consensus on what exactly they think constitutes an "American" string quartet piece. The program, therefore, is rather diverse, ranging from William Grant Still's Danzas de Panama (an interesting choice from a composer who was so widely respected as an authority on African American spirituals), the perfunctory Dvorák American Quartet, Samuel Barber's Op. 11 Quartet, and finally, Gershwin's Lullaby. This unfocused program may still be successful if it were not for one major hurdle: the Serafin String Quartet's playing unbearably boring. With so many folk-like melodies to be found in the program, it unfortunately chose to play with metronomic rigidity, little to no panache, and no sense of rhythmic vitality. Even Barber's familiar Adagio movement is performed without a sense of passion, intensity, or risk. Instead, the whole album sounds more like four individual musicians getting together to read quartets rather than a polished, matured, unified ensemble producing a singular, refined musical vision.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Danzas de Panama for String Quartet|
|String Quartet in F major, Op. 96 (American)|
|String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11|