The Hollywood String Quartet

Author: 
Robert Layton

The Hollywood String Quartet

  • Verklärte Nacht
  • String Quintet

Although the Schubert was reissued on LP in ''The Legendary Hollywood Quartet'' HMV set (9/81—nla), the Schoenberg has not appeared since it was first issued in 1950. It was the first ever version of Verklarte Nacht in its original sextet form and I am tempted to say that it remains unsurpassed. When it was first reviewed in these columns, LS wrote of it as being ''beautifully played here, with the most careful attention to details of dynamics and phrasing, with unfailing finesse, with consistently sympathetic tone, and, most important, with a firm sense of the basic structure''. If I have any criticism at all, it is that the atmosphere is a little slow to establish itself at the very beginning of the piece.
The Hollywood Quartet made music for the sheer love of it and as a relaxation from their duties in the film-studio orchestras, for which they were conspicuously overqualified. They have incomparable ensemble and blend; and their impeccable technical address and consummate tonal refinement silence criticism. There is no false glamour or overprojection of the kind so often encountered in high-powered professional quartets. In the 1950s the authors of The Record Guide (Collins: 1951) spoke of the Schubert as ''one of the best [LPs] in the discography of chamber music''; and so it remains. In terms of natural eloquence and selflessness of utterance, it fully deserves its classic status. The tranquillity of the slow movement has never been conveyed with greater nobility or more perfect control. I have treasured my Capitol LPs of both performances here as desert-island discs for four decades and am delighted to report that the transfers could not be better. There are perceptive notes, too, and Schoenberg's original sleeve-notes for the LP are reproduced. As older collectors will know, this is altogether exceptional music-making.'

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