- String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40, BB 52 (Op. 7)
- String Quartet No. 3 in C sharp major, Sz. 85, BB 93
- String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Sz. 102, BB 110
- String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Sz. 67, BB 75 (Op. 17)
- String Quartet No. 4 in C major, Sz. 91, BB 93
- String Quartet No. 6 in D major, Sz. 114, BB 119
- Want it by Monday, October 1 Order now and choose Expedited Shipping during checkout.
In order to compete with the long-established top recommendations for recordings of the complete Bartók string quartets -- depending on whom you ask, either the Emerson Quartet's from the late 1980s or the Takács Quartet's from the 1990s -- this new set from the Vermeer Quartet has to offer more than just a budget price tag. Fortunately, this turns out to be an extremely inviting package; not only is the music very well played, but the interpretations are also deeply considered. In short, it sounds like the work of musicians who have lived with this music for a long time and who know exactly what they want to say about it; the Vermeer has a history dating back to 1969, and the experience shows. The more lyrical sections of the quartets are particularly effective, with loving attention to the echoes and transformations of folk song that pervade much of the music; the "night music" episodes are also truly haunting, showcasing the musicians' mastery of refined and varied tone colors. It's a pleasure to linger in the late-Romantic world of the early First Quartet with the Vermeers, where often a listener might be tempted to jump forward to the more typically Bartókian sound of the middle-period works. But there's excitement in the thornier quartets, too, as the ensemble really digs into the aggressive opening to the Fifth Quartet and its equally gritty conclusion -- the most thoroughly impressive performance in this set -- and likewise with the angular lines of the Fourth. Some other recordings may have more of a daredevil quality, but throughout this set there's a clarity that helps the listener to actually comprehend the workings of this rather challenging music. That alone would make this a strong recommendation for anyone coming to the Bartók quartets for the first time, but budget-conscious listeners who pick it up will get more than their money's worth: some of the 20th century's greatest music in performances of great fidelity, insight, and technical command.