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To celebrate his 100th birthday, Elliott Carter’s Complete String Quartets have been newly recorded by the Pacifica Quartet, Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year for 2009.
Volume 1 (8559362) was critically acclaimed: “a knockout” (Limelight), “Music with heart as well as a brain” (4 STARS, The Times), “the best possible introduction to Carter’s music” (5 STARS, The Guardian) and has recently been nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Recording.
This disc presents the three remaining string quartets by the composer hailed by Aaron Copland as “one of America’s most distinguished creative artists in any field”.
Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 2
I. Allegro fantastico
I. Cadenza for viola
II. Presto scherzando
II. Cadenza for cello
III. Andante espressivo
III. Cadenza for violin I
Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 3
Duo II: Maestoso (giusto sempre) - / Duo I: Furioso (quasi rubato sempre)
Duo I: Giocoso (bar 90) - Duo II: Scorrevole (bar 106)
Duo I: Leggerissimo (bar 136) - Duo II: Giusto, meccanico (bar 151)
Duo I: Giocoso (bar 197) - Duo II: Maestoso (bar 219)
Duo II: Largo tranquillo (bar 254) - Duo I: Leggerissimo (bar 277)
Duo II: Scorrevole (bar 366) - Duo I: Andante espressivo (bar 380)
Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 4
Scherzando (stesso tempo)
Lento (stesso tempo)
“The 1959 Second Quartet is a wonderfully compact introduction to the music of Carter's middle period and the Pacifica map its temperamental twists and turns precisely, just as they cope with both the structural complexities of the Third, and the more straightforward movement sequence of the Fourth.”
“This disc finds the composer exploring the genre's potential for conversation and confrontation. The Second Quartet (1959) sees its members as a divisive, even dysfunctional foursome – compressing the four movements while interspersing them with cadenzas in which the introspection, impulsiveness and exhibitionism of viola, cello and first violin are offset by the uniformity of the second violin. The Pacifica enter into the discourse with relish, while at times evincing Mozartian poise. The Third Quartet (1971) sets up an opposition between duos of first violin and cello, against second violin and viola in a continuous and vivid juxtaposition of movement types always meaningful in context. Adopting a degree of expressive license, the Pacifica rightly give the sheer velocity of the material its head right through to the seismic energy of the closing pages. The Fourth Quartet (1986) can seem a retrenchment in its more equable dialogue over four outwardly traditional movements, but this does not account for a deft superimposing of elements across movements in a powerfully cumulative argument; any final 'coming together' being undermined by the coda's fragmentation. Not a work likely to yield its secrets easily, yet the Pacifica add appreciably to its understanding. Both sound and booklet-notes are up to the standard of the earlier disc, thus making its successor an equally indispensable acquisition.”
“The Second Quartet (1959) sees its members as a divisive, even dysfunctional foursome… The Pacifica enter into the discourse with relish, while at times evincing Mozartian poise. The Third Quartet (1971) sets up an opposition between duos of first violin and cello, against second violin and viola in a continuous and vivid juxtaposition. Adopting a degree of expressive license, the Pacifica rightly give the sheer velocity of the material its head right through to the seismic energy of the closing pages.”
20th February 2009
“The Pacifica have absorbed this music totally, and play it with a natural authority that no group before has ever matched. The Composers Quartet are hugely accomplished on their own terms, and although alongside these new accounts they do sometimes seem slightly tentative, their account of the First Quartet has an epic sweep that just eludes the Pacifica in their performance that came out last year.”
7th March 2009
“A thrilling, vivid journey through these intellectually invigorating works.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.