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Vegh Quartet work from 1954 is still essential

CLASSICAL

Bela Bartok, "The String Quartets" performed by the Vegh Quartet (Praga Digitals, two discs)

The reissue of 1954 mono performances of what is near-universally considered one of the greatest bodies of string quartets composed in the 20th century.

After the Bartok six and the Shostakovich 15 the qualitative distance to the rest of the century's string quartet music is long indeed. Violinist Sandor Vegh was born in Transylvania in 1912, helped form the New Hungarian Quartet in 1935 and the first of the quartets named for him in 1940. He was associated with Bartok's music throughout his long life, from 1912 to 1997.

It was this 1954 recording by his quartet of the most praised quartet music of the 20th century that is considered one of the handful of essential recordings of it (along with the Juilliard, and Guarneri among more modern, less idiosyncratic versions.) With performances like this, mono sound isn't nearly as much of a technical loss as one might think. Always grand to have it back in exemplary form.

4 stars (out of four)

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