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String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11
String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, OP. 22
New Haydn Quartet, Budapest - Janos Horvath, Peter Sarosi,(violins) Gyorgy Porzolt,(viola) and Gabor Magyar (cello)
recorded 2-5/10/95, in the Unitarian Church Budapest. DDD
Naxos 8.550847 [66.35]
 Amazon UK 

This disc is labelled Volume 1, in what presumably be a two Volume Set, and it is part of a number of Naxos String Quartet series which taken as a whole gives the impecunious collector a chance to build up a very good collection of chamber music at a competitive price.

String Quartet No. 1 is the Quartet with "that" slow movement - based upon an old Russian folksong. The movement became so popular in its original form (this quartet) and also the various arrangements made of it for various instruments, that Tchaikovsky began to regret that he had written it. It was finished in 1871 for a concert at the Moscow Conservatory on 28th March dedicated to Tchaikovsky's works. There is a classically written first movement of a gently lyrical nature which has been likened to Schubert. There then follows the lovely slow movement, which is known and loved the world over. A scherzo and trio follows which contrasts the slow movement, and the quartet is rounded off by the finale which is written in semi-sonata form, displaying Tchaikovsky's skill in writing in classical mode.

String Quartet No. 2 was completed some three years after and although less popular than its predecessor is still a significant example of Tchaikovsky at work in the chamber field. It was dedicated to Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, President of the Russian Musical Society. It was severely criticised by Anton Rubenstein at a private hearing. Tchaikovsky revised it and the first public performance was given in Moscow on the 22nd March 1874. This quartet has not had the popularity of its predecessor, but that makes it no less of a work for that.

The performances of both are very good as is the recording, made in a church acoustic, but with microphones placed close enough so as not to have the sound affected by the long reverberation time.

The four players play very well together and all parts within these two quartets are able to be heard clearly and effectively. I therefore have no qualms whatsoever about recommending this disc, and indeed I am looking forward to hearing the next in this series.

The only slight problem I had with the issue was when I compared it with the same works played by the Borodin Quartet on Melodiya. Here one senses that this quartet is playing quite a different work, as there are more romantic touches throughout. The recording is inferior on the earlier performance, as well as it being more expensive, and so "you pays your money and you takes your choice". The Naxos performance is for those who like a straight presentation of the score, well recorded, and very good it is too.


John Phillips


John Phillips

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