Music: New Records, Sep. 4, 1950

Bela Bartok published only six string quartets, but as far as many a musician is concerned, they gave the intimate and delicate world of chamber music its rudest shock since Beethoven. With his First Quartet, composed in 1908 when he was 27, Bartok stalked into a field of harsh, hybrid harmonies and fierce rhythms that jolted Budapest listeners upright in their seats. In the Second (1917), Third (1927) and Fourth (1928), he cultivated the field; his harmonies became more astringent, the rhythms more incisive, the textures ever tighter. Listeners found much that was either impenetrable or unpalatable, but they also...

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