First, the good part: this is an absolutely terrific recording of these two string quartets from the years between the two World Wars. The Bartok is certainly the more well known of the two, but the Hartmann can easily hold pride of place with the Bartok in terms of its musical quality. Its language is in tune with the expressionist chromaticism of the times, and its inspiration never flags. It should enjoy more renown and popularity than it does, and one hopes that recordings like this will give the Hartmann quartet wider recognition. The Zehetmair Quartet is in top form, wonderfully expressive and intense.
So why only 4 stars for this recording, which has 5-star performances? The answer is the short running time of this CD, only 43 minutes for the two quartets. There was easily room for either Hartmann's second quartet, which times at just a few minutes short of half an hour, or another quartet by another composer from that inter-war era. Recordings of the Hartmann quartets are quite rare, while sets of the Bartok quartets are comparatively thick on the ground. I can't help feeling that there was a missed opportunity to spread word of both Hartmann quartets to a wider audience. If you find this CD, you won't go wrong with it. But it could have had more.