Mp3 Blog #72: String Quartets 2

Anton Webern:
Five Movements for String Quartet (1909):
Performed by the Emerson String Quartet
Available on the 2000 edition of the complete music of Anton Webern

Bela Bartok:
String Quartet #4 (1928):
I. Allegro
II. Prestissimo, con sordino
III. Non troppo lento
IV. Allegretto pizzicato
V. Allegro molto
Performed by the Julliard String Quartet (1981 digital version)
Another recording available on this compact disc

(note all tracks are encoded as m4a, download the files first to play them)

* * * * *

In contrast to “Riegen seliger Geister” where Helmut Lachenmann attempts to subvert almost all standard conceptions of pitch, sound, and playing in the string quartet these two string quartets represent a slightly more conventional, yet forward-looking approach to this ensemble.

I remember being quite amused when I first became quite interested in the music of the second Vienese school and discovered that while their complete solo piano music could easily fit on one C.D. their complete string quartets required at least four C.D.s. This String Quartet by Anton Webern is one of my favorite of the string quartets by the composers in the second Vienese school (second only to Alban Berg’s “Lyric Suite”) as well as one of my favorite works by Webern.

Over a decade ago Bela Bartok’s music served as my first real gateway into appreciating music from the Twentieth century and beyond. His fourth string quartet has since become my favorite Bartok composition. I first became enthralled with his string quartet (which I consider his strongest works) just before starting my own quartet. I also consider the two concerts where I saw the Emerson Quartet perform the complete Bartok string quartets in Aspen Colorado as one of the most defining moments in my musical development.

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