Bartók • Beethoven • Dvořák: String Quartets (Juilliard SQ)
Juilliard String Quartet (Sony Classical)
Bartók • Beethoven • Dvořák
Bartók: String Quartet No. 3; Beethoven: String Quartet No. 8, Op. 59 No. 2 ‘Rasumovsky’; Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12 ‘American’
Juilliard String Quartet
Sony Classical 19439858752 70:35 mins
The Juilliard String Quartet celebrates its 75th anniversary this year– and here is the first recording with its most recent recruit, first violin Areta Zhulla. While its membership has changed over the decades, the quartet is still associated with the institution it is named after (all its members teach there), and its trademark tonal beauty, sensitively attuned ensemble and technical splendour is amply on show in this recording.
Those accustomed to lean, gritty ‘authentic’-style Beethoven may be surprised by the second Razumovsky Quartet, Op. 59 No. 2, which sounds here just a step from the full-blown romanticism of Dvořák’s American Quartet. Tonal beauty honed for high expression has, nevertheless, a lot to recommend it. There’s a sense that the players project ideas as if to the back of Carnegie Hall, which does mean that the expressive twists and turns become occasionally larger than life in the context of a recording – but what perfectly wrought ideas they are, with crisp rhythms ideally coordinated to perfection, airy textures, gorgeously vocal phrasing and a splendid pizzazz.
Bartók’s String Quartet No. 3 comes bowling out in technicolour, its details microfocused and textures so complex that sometimes it is hard to believe only four instruments are playing. To close, the Dvořák is a feast of energy and colour. The recording is suitably intimate while giving room for the tone to breathe and glow.
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