American Classics - Ives: String Quartets / Blair Quartet

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It's always good to have new recordings of Ives' two quartets (here including a bonus of the zany Scherzo for String Quartet). They are wonderful works, the first tuneful and charming, the second one of Ives' finest mature pieces. In the Second quartet the Blair Quartet charts a middle course between the Emerson's sleek and swift version on DG and the much slower, heavier Leipzig Quartet reading on MDG. Their less-polished ensemble sonority, grainier than the competition but never in an unpleasant or inartistic way, suits the music well, whether in the plain-spun hymn tunes of the First quartet or the raucous eruptions of the Second.

Only in the latter work's transcendental closing bars might I have wished for a smoother, richer timbre, but there's no questioning the sensible pacing or the players' mastery of the idiom. The sonics are also flatteringly clear and coherent, allowing plenty of contrapuntal detail to register without picking up extraneous performance noises or the ensemble's own breathing--almost always a problem, it seems, with quartet productions. God only knows if the Emerson version is still available, and for all the enticing additional couplings (a bevy of short pieces), the Leipzigers' Wagnerian take on the Second Quartet may not be to all tastes (and the disc is extremely expensive). That makes this release a very welcome addition to the Ives discography.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 31, 2006

  • Catalog Number: 8559178

  • UPC: 636943917824

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Charles Ives

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Blair String Quartet

  • Performer: Christian Teal, Cornelia Heard, Felix Wang, John Kochanowski