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  BIS -
  Harvard Composers - Mendelssohn String Quartet
  Walter Piston: String Quartet No. 1, Leon Kirchner: String Quartet No. 2, Earl Kim: Three Poems in French for soprano and string quartet, Bernard Rands: String Quartet No. 2, Mario Davidovsky: String Quartet No. 5

Lucy Shelton (soprano)
Mendelssohn String Quartet
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Review by Beagle July 18, 2005 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I haven't much to add to Chris Fredriksson's review, beyond concurring whole-heartedly with all his points. So why gild the rose? Because the 20th Century is such a hard sell... to all of us who grew up in that century. What IS our problem?

Yes yes yes, a lot of 20th C. stuff is the same damned piece by a dozen different incestuous academics (I refer to their education). But not all hundered years' worth; indeed what may be the greatest string quartet ever, was written by Ravel in '02-03. Followed by Shostakovich's 15 quartets and Bartók's difficult but fascinating 6. And please, do discover Villa-Lobos' 17 cuartetos, especially 3 and 7.

Yes, this is about String Quartets. Papa Haydn (who claimed to have fathered the form), wrote that "I paint my symphonies with a broad brush, but I save the fine touches for my chamber pieces and the connoisseur".

The Harvard Composers disc has been gathering dustbunnies in my WishList for a long time, and finally its moment came (I don't inhabit the 20th Century full-time either, and the hint of academia held me at bay). I am listening to it as I write: with keen pleasure. But even "keen" is an understatement when track 7 unleashes Earl Kim's Three Songs in French, with Lucy Shelton laying out Verlaine and Baudelaire with a shamelessness that would make Bessy Smith blush. The SOUND is -- some would say "overly resonant" -- and I say, to hell with such wusses, bring on the shivver down the spine and erect hair follicles. Amazing, Lucy, I'm yours. Ain't heard nuthin' to like it since B. Hendricks belting out Ravel's "Asie" [EMI CDC 7 49689].

The same mail brought another 20th C. disc, a hard-to-find Russian Disc with Miaskovsky quartets; interesting... but abrasive. As Chris so aptly notes, "There is a lot of low level detail that RBCD used to gloss over, harden or even lose completely". Too true on this disc; pity. Is that why the 20th C. has fallen out of favour with itself? Bad repro on bad media? It is my impression that "modern music" was less despised back in vinyl days. Well, the whole lot of low level details are here in Harvard Composers: beautiful airy highs and satisfyingly plump pizzicati.

In brief, I am saying: Give the big orchestras a night off and BUY THIS DISC. If you really really hate it, I will listen to a piece by Brahms as my punishment.

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Review by Chris October 5, 2004 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Another venture off the beaten track,from BIS. I must confess that I hadn't even heard of any of the composers on this excellent disc,apart from Walter Piston.
But if I was less than raving about the actual music on the latest BIS SACD I reviewed here ,I'm
more impressed here.The music is very different from the rather thin ,superficial and bombastic but big scaled music on the Grieg disc.
All of the works here are small-scale, intimate, serious and very rewarding 20th Century,pieces for string quartet.
And in one case,the work by Earl KIM, also soprano voice.
If you like the late string quartets by Beethoven,Brahms or Bartok for example, this disc will keep you hypnotized after a couple of listenings.
The music is captivating and the recording,well the recording is simply one of the very best recordings of chamber music I've ever heard!There is a lot of low level detail that RBCD used to gloss over, harden or even lose completely. None of that here!If you want a string quartet in your living room don't miss this disc.

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Works: 5  

Mario Davidovsky - String Quartet No. 5
Earl Kim - Three Poems in French for soprano and string quartet
Leon Kirchner - String Quartet No. 2
Walter Piston - String Quartet No. 1
Bernard Rands - String Quartet No. 2