String Quartets 1 to 6 – Belcea Quartet, EMI
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The Independent Culture

Composer laureate of night terrors and shifting shadows, Bartók began his cycle of string quartets with a belated goodbye to the opulence of the 19th century and ended it with a desolate farewell to a desecrated continent. From the decadent swoon of the first quartet, through the watershed lento of the second, the fricative agitations of the third, the moonlit arcs of the fourth and fifth, and the wise misery of the sixth, these works are required listening, and are served handsomely in the Belcea Quartet's thoughtful reading. The tuning is impeccable, the expressive and dynamic range daring. First must-buy of the year.