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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the tone deaf
These are some of the most lyrical works in all of music. I say this as one who started out as a skeptic. When I first heard Bartok's quartets I was sure that the legions of musicians, critics and assorted know-it-alls were only pretending to enjoy the stuff.
But this, like all other justly famous modern pieces, is no phoney-baloney. Bartok's melodies are as...
Published on Jan. 28 2004 by .

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3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Set
Technically proficient and the recording is first rate (AND it is on 2 CDs instead of the usual 3 so is cheaper). Even so, my loyalties remain with the DG set by Tokyo. They bring out the rhythmic zest of these works even more than the Emerson (who tend to gloss over rhythmic nuances).
Published on Jan. 11 2000 by s_molman


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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, July 12 2004
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
This is an excellent recording of the Bartok quartets. This music requires careful and repeated listening to really appreciate the structure of Bartok's achievement. The effort is quite worthwhile. Common criticism of this recording is that the Emerson isn't 'rough' enough, presumably meaning even and relatively conventional tempi and intonation. These performances, however, are the work of musicians who aim at being a vehicle of the music rather than drawing attention to themselves. For someone like me, who is listening to these pieces for the first time, this is probably a particularly good introduction to the Bartok quartets. There are other highly praised recent recordings and differentiating among them is a matter of taste.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the tone deaf, Jan. 28 2004
By 
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
These are some of the most lyrical works in all of music. I say this as one who started out as a skeptic. When I first heard Bartok's quartets I was sure that the legions of musicians, critics and assorted know-it-alls were only pretending to enjoy the stuff.
But this, like all other justly famous modern pieces, is no phoney-baloney. Bartok's melodies are as captivating as anything else in the classical repertoire. Of course it requires a lot of effort from the listener to appreciate the depth and beauty of these works. Even those who cannot stand anything other than traditional tonal music will find the 2nd and 4th movements of Quartet No. 5 hard to resist; and Quartet No. 1 is not far removed from the harmonies of Wagner.
Those who claim there is no "structure and melody" should get the score and play the pieces for themselves or, at the very least, listen more closely.
And, by the way, this is the best recording of Bartok's quartets I have heard, both in terms of the quality of the recording and the quality of the playing. The latter is of course subjective - some of my friends prefer the Juilliard Quartet recording. You'll probably prefer this CD if you like less vibrato and moderate tempi.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding Brilliance and Virtuousity, Jan. 4 2004
By 
Humbert Humbert (CA, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
The six quartets penned by the original and brilliant Béla Bartók represent the pinnacle of musical, particullarly modern, compostion in music. I will try to list a few of the many reasons these compostions are masterpieces. First of all, Bartók demonstrated the limits of what is and is not tonality. One must admire the amazing truce Bartók seemed to make with the tonal and atonal techniques. Second of all, the imagination and originality shown by the various demands on the performer to create some of the most unusual sounds from the string instruments, such as the "Bartók pizzacato" employed the most in the fourth movement of the fourth quartet, which calls on the performer to pluck a string so hard that it hits the fingerboard, was unprecedented by any composer for any instruments. Finally, and possibly most importantly, these quartets contain the power to inflict any emotion upon ther listener whether it is exhilartion to depression while encompassing the use of the techniques listed above. These quartets can be very violent and furious, but also can contain an original form of serenity.

As for the Emerson String Quartet's rendition of these quartets, I uphold as much admiration one can have for the performer without taking away from the actual composer's credit. The quartet always maintains the correct amount of balence that is a necessity for the four instruments. The Emerson also is able to always hit each percussive and dissonant chord simultainiously with a new level of perfection and percision. The tempi chosen for the various movements is very agreeable and never sounds rushed or dragged. This is a very crisp recording that has no background interference. I also must mention the unity the quartet maintains in the rapid moments of the music, such as the in second movement of the second quartet.

These quartets are recommended for everyone, but might not attract those who just enjoy music to serve in the background rather than to be analyzed.

Enjoy the great rendition of the Emerson perfecting Bartók!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The key, April 13 2003
By 
Arthur Hampton "Aging gym rat" (Rohnert Park, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
These quartets were for me the key to listening to 20th. century music. I listened for years and the music never registered until I heard this performance by the Emerson. The depth of understanding they have is tansmitted to the listener and what was opaque to me became crytalline. These are a precious part of my collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime and Fearless, Jan. 14 2003
By 
"snedderton" (Seekonk, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
The Emerson bring the passion of their youth to the Bartok quartets. This CD provides a stunning display of their virtuosity that is simultaneously cerebral and heartbreaking. This recording of Q#6, in particular, has brought me to tears.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, March 4 2002
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
The Emerson gives performances worthy of the monumental stature of Bartok's String Quartets. This quartet seems to think with one mind, always matching in expression and tone quality. Utterly refined playing, yet alternately wrenchingly emotional, fiercely agressive, bitterly sarcastic, and unabashedly gleeful. The Emerson seems to consitently get right to the heart of Bartok's meaning.
This performance grabs you by your shirt collar, stares you in the eye, and doesn't let you go until after the last notes have sounded. Thoroughly riveting.
I saw the Emerson play some of these quartets live shortly after this recording won the Grammy for best classical album. The live performance was even more exciting than the recording. Ten years later, I still consider this the best concert I have ever been to bar none. You need this CD.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly close..., Feb. 21 2002
By 
GARY J HIGGINS (UNIONVILLE, CT United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
Emerson Quartet makes stunning interpretations; they are not at the pinnacle, but very close to it. DG tend to overprice their selections: for the price of their Shostakovich, you could have both the Borodin (Melodiya) AND Fitzwilliam (London) Quartets, giving superior performances to those of Emerson. As for Beethoven, the Quartetto Italiano (Philips) is unsurpassed.
However, Emerson are gorgeous with their early 20th century repertoire of Eastern Europe. Their Webern is the most consistent and fascinating of the Boulez box, and this Bartok is haunting and lovely. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must have in any classical music library!, July 5 2001
By 
Andrew Bisset (Marshall, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
Bartok's 6 string quartets are some of the best quartets ever written. Bartok's unique folk-music-like style comes out best in his works for strings. The works have a very rustic and gypsy-like sound, yet Bartok constructed them to perfection. His unique use of tonality is demonstrated best in these quartets in which all instruments jump through 12 tones and still keep a tonal center. Aaron Copland, in his book "What To Listen For In Music", suggests these quartets by the Emerson Quartet as an excellent place to start in exploring the music of Bela Bartok. If one is looking for a good recording to bring them into the appreciation of 20th century and contemporary music, these quartets are the place to start. Furthermore, Emerson does such a FABULOUS job. The quartet actually performed the whole cycle of quartets in a concert. Any group of musicians who can keep an audience entertained with over 2 hours of very complex and enigmatic music deserves recognition. So recognize Emerson and BUY THIS RECORDING!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine music making but not the best, Oct. 13 2000
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This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
Emerson's Bartok is definitely worth listening to. Their playing is beautiful and interpretation thoughtful. With all respect to this fine ensemble however, their recording has nothing that hasn't been heard in the Tokyo recordings of years ago. The Tokyo has more the kind of energy and dynamism needed for this music. If you're an Emerson fan, by all means, get the CD. you'll love it. If you're a Bartok fan however, get the Tokyo. enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars great music, great performances, Oct. 8 2000
By 
A. Temple "fiber_optiq" (Ann Arbor, MI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
The Emerson Quartet combines the energy of Takacs with the accuracy of Julliard to create a wonderful performance. The music, of course, is mind-blowing. Get this CD. Now.
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6 Str Qrts by Bela Bartok (Audio CD - 1990)
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