AAA 100% Analogue This LP was Remastered using Pure Analogue Components Only from the Master Tapes through to the Cutting Head
Speakers Corner / Columbia D3S 717 - 180 Gram Virgin Vinyl
AAA 100% Analogue - Limited Edition - D3S 717 Columbia Masterworks
Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio - Pressed at Pallas Germany
Béla Bartók: String Quartets Nos. 1-6 - The Juilliard String Quartet
Speakers Corner 25 Years Pure Analogue This LP is an Entirely Analogue Production
There is excellent definition and clarity, which means unlike so many recordings the cello’s lower register is clean as opposed to boomy, the players are locked in place, can be heard as individuals in climaxes and the frequency response is smooth and extended. Because a recording studio as opposed to a larger hall was used there is a short reverberation time, which is ideal for chamber music and being analogue the room’s acoustic is vividly captured. The dynamic range is good, if not exceptional, instrumental timbres have real vibrancy and naturalness; much the same can be said about the sense of presence which is tangible and exceptionally lifelike and here the Speakers Corner LPs are superior to the originals.- Classical Source
Throughout the ages, the string quartet with its usual forces has always been regarded as the crowning discipline among all forms of composition. Poetically described by Carl Maria von Weber as the nude of musical art and by Goethe as a »cultured conversation among equals«, the genre reflects the creative art of important composers from the Viennese Classicism right up to modern times.
Bartók’s six String Quartets, written over the span of roughly 30 years, demonstrate his development as a composer in the purest form. In the Quartets, stated Bartók, condense to the extreme. In the very first quartet, which is orientated on traditional formal structures, Bartók travels down his own path by lending different weight to the various formal sections, rejecting repeats, and joining the movements together by means of bridging passages.
The second quartet is exemplary for its intentional distance from the Romantic in favour of a composition based on simple folksongs, in which Bartók attempts to grasp the folk sound in his compositional structures, whereby he never quite disregards the tonal rules but certainly begins to free himself from them.
The new richness in the third quartet with regard to counterpoint, melody and harmony as well as tone, is described by the sociologist and composer Theodor W. Adorno – with allusion to the musical creativity of the Hungarian peasants – as a »tent camp of improvisation«, which ventures here and there towards the avant-garde. As a contrast, the fourth quartet is almost relaxed in tone, the form and compositional technique is simple and uncomplicated in expression (Ludwig Finscher). For the first time, Bartók employs his idea of an 'arch' structure in which Hungarian folklore and the classical-romantic chamber-music forms are amalgamated. Like the fourth, the fifth quartet is also written in arch form, but in contrast to the fourth it is more cheerful and transparent. The sixth and final quartet was the last piece that Bartók wrote in Hungary before emigrating to the United States of America. All four movements have a mesto introduction, which induce a melancholy mood and seem to reflect the composer’s personal circumstances.
The Juilliard Quartet was the very first American ensemble to record the six quartets in roughly 1950, and they took up the challenge to record the works once again in the middle of the 60s, in order to give each of the unique works a conclusive performance. With firm bowing, and a dry and direct tone, the musicians dissect the substantial power of these works to reflect all the different aspects of the manuscripts.
This was the Juilliard’s second version (having first recorded them in 1950) of the Bartók
Quartets. So how did the early Sixties line-up fare in these transcendentally great works?
The First Quartet’s opening Lento is played as a slow dirge, the dynamic range piano and
below, for all of the ensuing Allegretto’s chromaticism the Juilliards still inject a degree of
romantic largesse into their phrasing, but in the Allegro vivace finale more attack is
needed. There is a sense of conversation between the players in the Second Quartet, as
they delineate the first movement’s radical polyphony, in what is effectively the scherzo
they sharply accentuate the dance rhythms and the closing Lento is imbued with a deep
sense of foreboding.
Bartók used folk-like themes and motifs in the single movement Third, with sul ponticello
and col legno bowing and some glorious glissando like portamenti, contained within short
sections that coalesce into two larger wholes. The Juilliards effortlessly convey each
change of pace, mood, dynamic and texture, although their pizzicati aren’t quite violent
enough. Number Four is in five linked movements; here their sophisticated playing
captures ever y change of direction and emotion, including some beautiful cello playing by
Claus Adam in the central night-music.
In the Fifth the second movement Adagio molto is quite rightly very slow, the Scherzo
suitably rustic and despite the climax of the third movement lacking savagery, the finale is
delightfully sprung and elfin. The Sixth is a profoundly serious, tragic, yet beautiful work.
Here the Juilliards weight, variety of tone and depth of expression are superb, the final
bars desolate. In conclusion then, these marvellous performances can be recommended
alongside classics versions by the likes of the Talich and Végh Quartets.
Inner balance: 5
Detail and clarity: 4/5
Dynamic range: 3
It says a lot about record collecting that you can buy the original CBS box-set of these
performances for as little as €25.00, but the equivalent British Columbia SAX discs
(produced under licence) cost up to ten times that amount. These Speakers Corner discs
use the later grey and orange as opposed to first American grey two-eye label, which is
unfortunate given the price of around €75 plus postage and packing, but presumably
dictated by the available Sony/BMG archive material.
In terms of sound the overall balance is more forward than on the CBS first label LPs
mentioned above without being in your face, although it is slightly more recessed in the
First and Fifth Quartets recorded in September 1963. There is excellent definition and
clarity, which means unlike so many recordings the cello’s lower register is clean as
opposed to boomy, the players are locked in place, can be heard as individuals in climaxes
and the frequency response is smooth and extended. Because a recording studio as
opposed to a larger hall was used there is a short reverberation time, which is ideal for
chamber music and being analogue the room’s acoustic is vividly captured. The dynamic
range is good, if not exceptional, instrumental timbres have real vibrancy and naturalness;
much the same can be said about the sense of presence which is tangible and
exceptionally lifelike and here the Speakers Corner LPs are superior to the originals.
Recording: between May and September 1963 at Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, by Fred Plaut
Production: Paul Myers
String Quartet No. 1 (30:19)
A1.1 I – Lento
A1.2 II – Allegretto
A2 III – Introduzione: Allegro; Allegro Vivace 12:00
String Quartet No. 2 (28:41)
B1 I – Moderato 11:00
B2 II – Allegro Molto Capriccioso 7:34
B3 III – Lento 9:57
String Quartet No. 3 (14:36)
C1 Prima Parte: Moderato
C2 Seconda Parte: Allegro
C3 Recapitulazione Della Prima Parte: Moderato
C4 Coda: Allegro Molto
String Quartet No. 4 (22:53)
D1 I – Allegro 5:47
D2 II – Prestissimo, Con Sordino 2:47
D3 III – Non Troppo Lento 5:44
D4 IV – Allegretto Pizzicato 2:55
D5 V – Allegro Molto 5:25
String Quartet No. 5 (30:51)
E1 I – Allegro 7:15
E2 II – Adagio Molto 6:21
E3 III – Scherzo: Alla Bulgarese 4:58
E4 IV – Andante 5:08
E5 V – Finale: Allegro Vivace 6:04
String Quartet No. 6 (29:32)
F1 I – Mesto; Vivace 7:24
F2 II – Mesto; Marcia 7:44
F3 III – Mesto: Burletta: Moderato 7:15
F4 IV – Mesto 6:54
This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head 25 Years pure Analogue
Are your records completely analogue?
Yes! This we guarantee!
As a matter of principle, only analogue masters are used, and the necessary cutting delay is also analogue. All our cutting engineers use only Neumann cutting consoles, and these too are analogue. The only exception is where a recording has been made – either partly or entirely – using digital technology, but we do not have such items in our catalogue at the present time
Are your records cut from the original masters?
In our re-releases it is our aim to faithfully reproduce the original intentions of the musicians and recording engineers which, however, could not be realised at the time due to technical limitations. Faithfulness to the original is our top priority, not the interpretation of the original: there is no such thing as a “Speakers Corner Sound”. Naturally, the best results are obtained when the original master is used. Therefore we always try to locate these and use them for cutting. Should this not be possible, – because the original tape is defective or has disappeared, for example – we do accept a first-generation copy. But this remains an absolute exception for us.
Who cuts the records?
In order to obtain the most faithful reproduction of the original, we have the lacquers cut on the spot, by engineers who, on the whole, have been dealing with such tapes for many years. Some are even cut by the very same engineer who cut the original lacquers of the first release. Over the years the following engineers have been and still are working for us: Tony Hawkins, Willem Makkee, Kevin Gray, Maarten de Boer, Scott Hull, and Ray Staff, to name but a few.
At the beginning of the ‘90s, in the early days of audiophile vinyl re-releases, the reissue policy was fairly straightforward. Companies such as DCC Compact Classics, Mobile Fidelity, Classic Records and others, including of course Speakers Corner, all maintained a mutual, unwritten code of ethics: we would manufacture records sourced only from analogue tapes.
Vinyl’s newfound popularity has led many other companies to jump on the bandwagon in the hope of securing a corner of the market. Very often they are not so ethical and use every imaginable source from which to master: CDs, LPs, digital files and even MP3s.
Even some who do use an analogue tape source employ a digital delay line, a misguided ’80s and ‘90s digital technology that replaces the analogue preview head originally used to “tell” the cutter head in advance what was about to happen musically, so it could adjust the groove “pitch” (the distance between the grooves) to make room for wide dynamic swings and large low frequency excursions. Over time analogue preview heads became more rare and thus expensive.
So while the low bit rate (less resolution than a 16 bit CD) digital delay line is less expensive and easier to use than an analogue “preview head”, its use, ironically, results in lacquers cut from the low bit rate digital signal instead of from the analogue source!
Speakers Corner wishes to make clear that it produces lacquers using only original master tapes and an entirely analogue cutting system. New metal stampers used to press records are produced from that lacquer. The only exceptions are when existing metal parts are superior to new ones that might be cut, which includes our release of “Elvis is Back”, which was cut by Stan Ricker or several titles from our Philips Classics series, where were cut in the 1990s using original master tapes by Willem Makkee at the Emil Berliner Studios. In those cases we used only the original “mother” to produce new stampers.
In addition, we admit to having one digital recording in our catalogue: Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky”, which was recorded digitally but mixed to analogue tape that we used to cut lacquers.
In closing, we want to insure our loyal customers that, with but a few exceptions as noted, our releases are “AAA”— analogue tape, an all analogue cutting system, and newly cut lacquers.
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