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Belá Bartók: String Quartet no. 4

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Published on Sep 17, 2016

I. Allegro II. Prestissimo, con sordino III. Non troppo lento IV. Allegretto pizzicato V. Allegro molto

Bartók’s Fourth Quartet, written in 1928, shows an increasing mastery of his concepts of form, harmony and melody. In ‘arch’ form, with the outer movements reflecting each other, the central movement is an example of Bartók’s ‘night music’, irresistibly suggesting the sounds of the Hungarian plains, from bagpipes to insects. Surrounding this are two scherzos, the second movement played with mutes on, the fourth movement characterized by varieties of pizzicato, sometimes throbbing, sometimes slapping. The first movement sets out the cells of melody and rhythm that drive the whole quartet and which are reinvoked the finale. The constant references and hints at Hungarian folk music and melodies which haunt the work belie the claims that the work is ‘atonal’; but it is a fierce and proud expression of the composer’s sound world.

The Kodaly Quartet give an authoritative account at the 2016 Indian Summer in Levoca Festival. Concert given with the support of the Hungarian Institute in Bratislava.

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