- String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Sz. 102, BB 110
- String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40, BB 52 (Op. 7)
Finnish string quartet Meta4 has recorded three albums on the Haenssler Classic label, presenting works by Dmitry Shostakovich, Franz Joseph Haydn, and here, Béla Bartók, in a rather unpredictable way of approaching the repertoire. One might suppose that a CD of the "String Quartet No. 1" and the "String Quartet No. 5" would be the first volume of a projected Bartók cycle, but there's no guarantee that Meta4 will continue with the other four quartets, or instead veer off into some other direction for their next release. Yet because these performances are sensitive and insightful, this CD should be appreciated for its own strengths, whether or not more Bartók is in the offing. Great care is taken in the separation and individualization of parts, so the quartet really seems to be involved in a true conversation, and the four players -- violinists Antti Tikkanen and Minna Pensola, violist Atte Kilpeläinen, and cellist Tomas Djupsjöbacka -- give their parts distinctive characteristics that heighten the emotional dimensions of the music, even though some of the fierce dynamism Bartók requires is lost. Haenssler's recorded sound is open and at times overly resonant, and even though the distance of the miking makes it seems a bit unfocused, the group's vibrant string tone mostly makes up for it.