EMERSON STRING QUARTET / INTIMATE LETTERS 4778093

. . . they show that they have thought things though, since the abrasive "sul ponticello" interruptions register all the more shockingly. I also admire their choice of the Martinu Madrigals as a filler, and have nothing but praise for the fullness of tone and the expressive focus that Philip Setzer and Lawrence Dutton bring to them, or for DG's fine recording quality throughout the disc.

It is, of course, the whole point of classical chamber music that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that¿s certainly true in the exultant Emerson Quartet¿s dynamically charged and brilliant performance of the phosphorescent Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 of Leos Janacek that the ensemble is justly proud of championing ¿for more than 25 years.¿ . . . they are hugely demanding works with slashing orchestral power and acres of opportunities for tonal wobbling . . . Good performances . . . of two of the greatest 20th century string quartets . . .

The Emerson Quartet's outstanding mastery of this music is best illustrated in the way they handle the constantly changing textures and expressive psychology, as in the third movement of the "Kreutzer" Sonata in which the attempts to establish dialogue-like canon are continually interrupted by scratchy upper harmonics. Also included is a delightful reading of Martinu's Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola.

By any standards these superbly recorded performances stand as high as the marvellous insightful readings of the Skampa Quartet.

The muscular attacks yet colorful tone, the clarity of individual lines yet solidity of ensemble, all under perfect control, are impossible paradoxes solved without the slightest suggestion of conquering obstacles; rather this is just the way the music should be, played as if there were no other way . . . The music and its performance are thoroughly winning . . . This is a marvelous performance . . .

Im Mittelpunkt stehen die beiden, mit kristalliner Reinheit gespielten Quartette von Leos Janácek, die unter ihren wissenden Händen prima die Balance zwischen Bekenntniswerk und absoluter Themenvariierung halten. Eine reizvolle Duo-Ergänzung sind die renaissancehaften Drei Madrigale für Geige und Bratsche von Bohuslav Martinu.

Das Emerson String Quartet zelebriert die vertonten Gefühlsausbrüche mit all der Schärfe und Brillanz, die sie unwiderstehlich machen. Doch den bedrängten Zuhörern wird eine Atempause gegönnt. Zwischen Janaceks Quartetten erklingen Bohuslav Martinus Madrigale für Violine und Viola (1947), die eine belastbare Brücke von der Renaissance zum Jazz schlagen.

Wenn die vier Amerikaner spielen, liegt Energie in der Luft, ist Stringenz angesagt, Kühle eher denn Wärme, trotz glühender Saiten. Und letztlich muss man eher von Leidenschaft sprechen als von Emotionalität . . . in ihnen lodert Feuer, aus ihnen spricht Temperament . . .

Feverish performances of Janacek's two string quartets, fiercely original early 20th-Century masterpieces whose intensity, drama and subtext all suggest operas without words.