Now I know why they make jokes about Hoboken (see below)
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 10/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Man, it's discouraging to see people piddling all over music like this. 1950-65 was a great era for American culture; sure the European influence was lingering but American composers (and artists and filmmakers) were finding a voice, an expression of some quality uniquely American that had never appeared before. American music could be something other than Hoe-Downs, Charlestons, and Nearer my God to Thee (sorry, Charles, and you know I love you anyway). This was a taut and crisp intellectual America that was finally gaining ascendancy, something new to the world, brilliant and beautiful. I think of a wonderful photo of Elliott Carter with Stravinsky in New York at some gallery or concert hall circa 1960 or so. Stravinsky looks old and seedy, like a Russian refugee even though he had years to ditch that; Carter, alert and in a sharp suit, looks like the future-on-the-half-shell. It all got blown out of the water by 60s and 70s-era lack of standards and discrimination and an unwillingness to TRY. Sixties-era, anti-culture crapola that still reigns supreme. To much pot. Hippies ruined everything.
What's startling about the bad review is these quartets are hardly over-intellectualized. In fact most are quite beautiful or evocative; the Cage stunningly so. The LPs this collection came off were among my favorites of that era and I doubt a better or more nightmarish Black Angels has ever been done despite recent attempts by Kronos and others. Amazing playing by committed performers. A deal and a bargain.
For ten bucks this is like gold for free. Have at it!"
Many Undiscovered Treasures
Christopher Forbes | Brooklyn,, NY | 01/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's almost laughable not to pick up this disc. The price alone makes the set worth it. Added to that the fact that many of these works are not available in other forms and this disc is a no-brainer for fans of the late 20th century string quartet. The sampling transcends styles, from the almost improvisatory sonic canvas of Earle Brown, to the surprisingly beautiful almost minimal quartet of Cage, the horrific depiction of war in Crumb's justly famous Black Angels, or the almost traditional sounding Schonbergisms of Stepan Wolpe, this is an eclectic collection and well worth the modest investment. I won't review everything on the album, as there is just too much. Highlights for me include the Earle Brown quartet, which is one of Brown's strongest early works. Since Brown is poorly represented on CD, every release of his is worth having, but the Second Quartet is a masterwork of tonal subtlety. Cage's Quartet was written just before he moved into his more aleatoric phase. It is highly modal and almost a precusor to minimlism, a very pleasing work that should be more widely known. Christian Wolff is also a composer who is underrepresented on CD (though Mode is quickly redressing the imbalance.) Summer is also a protominimalist work, based on stark 5ths. The reading of Black Angels is good, though not anything to supplant the Kronos reading, which is still my favorite. Also interesting are Quartets by Wolpe and Leon Kirchner. So if you have any interest in American string work of the late 20th century, you need this disc. It is indispensible and very beautifully played. And the Vox Box price is unbeatable."