Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Leos Janacek, Alban Berg Quartet|
Leos Janácek: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2
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Energy and Pathos
B. Thomason | Boulder, CO | 06/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Aside from the enthusiastic applause before and after each performance, you would never know this recording is live. The sound is clear and balanced throughout. The Berg quartet achieves a high level of catharsis with both quartets, and convey their passionate and inspired performance convincingly to the listener. For the first quartet, I recommend also reading Tolstoy's short story of the same name "The Kreutzer Sonata" for an understanding of the extra-musical associations with the quartet. The quartet is haunting and beautiful without reading it, but I think in this case having a real story to go along with it makes the impact much more intense. This is a great recording, and cheaper than most. I obviously recommend it!"
Energetic But Uninsightful
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 05/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The two quartets by Leos janacek (1854-1928) are among my favorite works of the 20th Century. I have four recordings of them, by the Alban Berg Quartet, the Talich Quartet, the Stamitz-Quartet, and the newest, The Emerson Quartet. I can't imagine giving any of these splendid performances less than a five-star rating, but I certainly have a preference, for the moment at least, for the Emerson CD, which I've recently reviewed.
Grouping them, I find the Stamitz and Talich performances interpret both quartets forthrightly as late blooms of 19th century Romanticism. The Stamitz players make whole passages of the first quartet (1923) sound very like Dvorak; their dynamic palette is fairly narrow, and they are markedly timid about the abrupt rhythmic shifts that these quartets employ as a kind of conversational rhetoric.
Both the Berg Quartet and the Emersons, to my ears anyway, are more venturesome in technical matters, using a wider palette of timbres, more aggressive bowings, both harsher and suaver tones, more calculated shifts of tempo and dynamic. The Berg performance, indeed, resorts to very raspy tones quite a lot, usually in an effort at affect. I don't object to that harshness, though I hear it overwhelming the alternate pensive moods of the music. What I don't like is their very broad vibrato, used far more constantly than by any of the other ensembles. Vibrato is properly an ornament, not a means of 'schmaltzing' the fervor of the musical line. Overused vibrato also masks the intensity of chordal contrasts, of consonance and dissonance. I suppose I find this interpretation by the Berg Quartet the most confusing of the four, leaning backwards toward the romantic on the whole yet bumping toward modernism in its details. It's worth noting, I think, that Janacek wrote both quartets in his remarkable old age - his seventies. Heard in the context of his other music of the same decade - Janacek's last opera, House of the Dead, for instance - I think his flight from his 19th C romantic roots is obvious, and should be obvious in performance."