American Record Guide

The recording presents the soundtrack to a DVD that aims to makes good on Stravinsky’s remark, from the Norton Lectures, that hear¬ing music is insufficient. It’s a fine perform¬ance of four 20th Century and contemporary quartets—some better known than others.

The three Stravinsky pieces, from 1914, are Russian in their stylistic orbit, neoclassic in their instrumentation: one senses, as with sev¬eral other works from the period, Stravinsky moving toward the cleaner, sparer textures that he would exploit in the 20s.

Finnissy’s exceptional second quartet, written for the Kreutzers, exists only in parts rather than score and parts; the individual instruments, as the liner notes state, “often exist in free relation to each other” As always, I find his music fascinating and believe it repays repeated hearings.

The remainder—Lutoslawski’s sole quartet and Ligeti’s second—measure fully with other performances of these works that I have heard.

—Rob Haskins