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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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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 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 Very Strong (but not the best), Sept. 27 2000
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
The String Quartet is one genre that experienced a renaissance in the 20th century. After its birth in the hands of Haydn and its apotheosis in those of Beethoven, the string quartet slowly declined in popularity during the second half of the 19th century (simply compare the output-- Beethoven wrote seventeen quartets; Brahms wrote four. Many late romantic composers wrote none. Even more than numbers, the string quartet ceased to be considered one of the central genres of Western art music). Then a miracle occurred-- in the 20th century composers broke away from the ever burdening weight of late 19th century chromaticism and large symphonic forms. Composers returned to the string quartet as a central genre-- the six string quartets of Bartok are core pieces in his output and reflect his compositional development as he matured.
The string quartets are not works to be listened to passively-- they are energetic and vivacious pieces, full of chromaticism, dissonance, and driving (Hungarian) rhythms. Throughout his lifetime, Bartok had a keen interest in the folk music of Hungary and other countries, and he often incorporated the folk melodies into his compositions, either directly, or by absorbing the style and composing new melodies in the folk style. At the same time, Bartok incorporated elements of the modern atonal style in his writing. In the end, these quartets are incredibly rich because of the breadth of influence and amalgamation of styles. I certainly recommend the works for anyone looking for a route into music of the 20th century.
The Emerson quartet's recording is strong and polished, but I feel it lacks a certain amount of energy needed to perform these works-- I prefer the recording by the Takács Quartet, mainly because they give an even more spirited rendition of these works. But, I would by no means say that this is a bad recording, and if you are a die-hard fan of the Emerson Quartet, by all means grab this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dive in, Nov. 27 1999
By 
Jock (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
If you are new to Bartok or even twentieth century chamber works, then this recording is fine place to start. The Emerson Quartet built their lofty reputation through the status of this recording, and their series of spectacular concerts where they play the quartets, one to six in one night.
These quartets can sound tough and uncompromising to tender ears but once you gently get to know them i.e. while studying or reading, your mind almost unconsciously unlocks the music and you soon are struck by the realisation that this is amongst the most beautiful, moving and exciting music you may ever hear.
These quartets span Bartok's entire career and are quite occupy quite different sound worlds. The first is early, a good acclimatiser but only really a foothill, the second is gentle and humane, troubled and reflective, a deeply emotional work, the third: short, intense, challenging, but life-affirmingly rhythmic with a wild joyous close, then the grand showpiece, the fourth contains some of the most astonishing and exhilarating sounds you will hear some from a quartet. I still am cool towards the fifth and sixth, dunno they just don't click, indeed not everyone will take to shine to all or any of this music. The trick is to not sit sternly into front of the speakers, waiting on revelation, just give the music a chance to come to you.
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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 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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4.0 out of 5 stars Really worthy to hear them. New experience on this genre., Sept. 27 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
To begin with, you never expect these string quartets look alike those of Haydn, Boccherini, Mozart, or any other peers of romantic period. They seem to derive from the late Beethoven's. Emerson's performance is still greater than hyperion CDs performed by Budapest String Quartet in terms of sonority, clarity,etc. Personally I dare to recommend these CDs to whom already experienced a lot of the same genre. But, while keep listening over and over, I found why they were on a recommendation list in this genre. First I heard, very difficult to enjoy the music itself, with no easy-to-hum melodies, difficulty in recognizing the main theme, etc. More and more over and over, I turned used to them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Emer Must Be Proud of His Son, Jan. 11 2000
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This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
This is probably the best recording of the Bartok Quartets available. These quartets are all masterpieces, every one of them, and only the Emerson Quartet has met MY standards. If you aren't already a huge Bartok fan, I promise you that after listening to this recording a lot, you will become one. PLEASE BUY THIS AND LISTEN TO IT A LOT! As a young composer, these quartets have changed my life. If you are a musician like me, you may want to get your hands on the scores. The Emerson quartet performs with amazing accuracy, intensity, and beauty. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! , STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND BUY THE DARN THING ALREADY! YOU'RE WAISTING PRECIOUS LISTENING TIME! BUY IT!
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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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6 Str Qrts
6 Str Qrts by Bela Bartok (Audio CD - 1990)
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