After releasing String Quartets Nos. 1, 2 & 4 in 2019, the Ragazze Quartet now completes the Bartók Quartets cycle with Bartók Bound, Vol. 2 (String Quartets Nos. 3, 5 & 6).
Ragazze Quartet tells us:
“Five years ago, we declared ourselves Bartók Bound. In so doing, we committed ourselves for an unlimited period to the fascinating music of an assiduous and headstrong Hungarian. Béla Bartók, the composer who, in search of a new sound, sustained German romanticism while embracing the new concepts and styles emerging across Europe. Who, through his study of the folk music of very all countries in the Carpathian Basin – and later Turkey and North Africa too – incorporated its melodies in his work? Thus, Bartók sought to draw nearer to his ideal: the brotherhood of men.
During these five years we compiled several programs featuring at least one of Bartók’s string quartets. We placed his music alongside other composers who migrated to America in ‘Fellow Travellers’, we performed folklore from all over the world in ‘Etnos’, and we focused on the ‘20s of the previous century and our own in ‘The Growl and the Flirt’. Our Bartók Pub Quiz drew the audience into his life and work, while for children we created the production ‘Krijg de Kleure’ [get the color].
But the nucleus of Bartók Bound remained the same: the study and performance of all six quartets and their registration on these recordings. Bartók makes extreme demands on the player: staggering technique, rhythmic precision, and great dedication and single-mindedness to communicate his music to the listener. It gives enormous satisfaction to assimilate his self-created universe, to plumb the very depths of his musical language. This second album presents the fruits of this process.
Has this now come to an end? Not as far as we are concerned. The significance of these six works for the development of the string quartet in the twentieth century is inestimable. The music is so rich and challenging, so indescribably beautiful and thrilling, that we can go on playing it for years to come. And we consider it proven that one can do justice to Bartók’s music in many ways – a conviction that we wish to continue to promote.”
Rosa Arnold, Violin
Jeanita Vriensvan Tongeren, Violin
Annemijn Bergkotte, Viola
Rebecca Wise, Violoncello
Total time: 01:14:37
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||November 5, 2021|
With compelling musicianship, the Ragazze Quartet deliver a superb cycle of Bartók’s String Quartets. The Ragazze Quartet captures the full range of emotional content in these six quartets with vibrant, intelligent performances that rise to the top ranks of the great performances we’ve known over the decades. And the sound quality from Channel Classics is superb. Bravo!
After releasing String Quartets Nos. 1, 2, and 4 in 2019, the Ragazze Quartet now completes the Bartók Quartets cycle in Bartók Bound, Volume 2 with String Quartets Nos. 3, 5, and 6. And a great recorded cycle this is. I’ve long valued the cycles by the Julliard Quartet (60s), the Talich Quartet, and the Takács Quartet. This cycle clearly rises to that same level of excellence, but with better sound thanks to the excellent engineering by Jared Sacks.
The Ragazze Quartet approaches all these quartets with style, marvelous musicianship, and complete commitment. They adopt a longer line, with a bit less aggressive bite, than some others (e.g., the 1960s Julliard which is frenzied). And they might slightly miss some of that idiomatic, ethnic piquancy that the Takács bring to the music, for example. But the outcome from the Ragazze is no less involving than any of these alternatives. If anything, their approach sucks me deeper into the music as they fully engage Bartók’s thematic interplay and contrasts. One senses a real rapport between the Quartet and this music.
Bartók’s string quartets are great music. They are the greatest chamber music of the first half of the twentieth century, as I would say Shostakovich’s quartets are to the second half of the century, and Beethoven’s to the nineteenth. They make for a deep, intense listening experience, and like Beethoven’s and Shostakovich’s late quartets, it is difficult to fully grasp the enormity of the music in one or two takes. On first encounter, these will seem difficult as they come filled with heavy chromaticism, dissonance, and tonal ambiguities. Few would argue that these are uncompromising works with a lot to listen to.
For performers, these quartets pose enormous technical challenges. The scores are crowded with special effects that test the limits of the string idiom, ranging from exaggerated glissandi to playing with the wood of the bow to fierce pizzicati made to snap against the fingerboard. The sound at times almost seems to issue from a percussion ensemble instead of a string quartet. And, although the music may be challenging, Bartok often concludes with crowd-pleasing, rhythmically driven flurries of rustic folk music and dance.
The Ragazze Quartet delivers superbly.
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