Transylvanian quartet enjoys sinking teeth into Bartók. Limelight Magazine, Australia review Jan 2019

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 22nd January 2019

This young group, formed while studying at the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Roumania, has been building quite a reputation. Hailing from Transylvania, they claim a special connection with Bartók’s quartets. Such nationalist appropriation usually raises my hackles, but having listened enraptured I say fair enough.

This is wonderfully imaginative playing – a more relaxed approach than the high-tension of some recent rivals. The expansive tempi allow room for savouring some extraordinary textures and sonorities, letting sounds resonate and hang in the air. Their lovely tonal blend, captured in a typical Chandos warm acoustic, is in the classic East-European soft-grained tradition but doesn’t sugarcoat these modernist icons. The primal savagery is conveyed with foot-stamping energy and earthy colours, while melancholia and wistful longing pervade the atmospheric slow movements.

Clinical precision is eschewed in favour of expressive freedom and folkloric colouring – the buzzing night sounds shimmer through a heat haze – more post-impressionist landscape than expressionist nightmare. The outer movements of the Fourth Quartet are less hectoring than usual, while the middle movement’s viola tune has a tearful lump in its throat.

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Raphael Wallfisch/Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra: Photos from last week’s performance

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 19th November 2018

Tasmin Little in Winnipeg, Canada: Interview on Winnipeg Classic 107

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 12th November 2018

Idaho Bach Festival: Lovely photos of London Handel Players in performance in October 2018

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 12th November 2018

Gramophone Review: Arcadia Quartet Bartok: “..if I was asked to recommend a Bartók cycle to a first-time listener intimidated by his spiky reputation, I’d send them straight to the Arcadia Quartet. Even for the aficionado, this spacious, big-hearted vision of Bartók as poet, dreamer and humourist has something distinctive and beautiful to say.”

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 12th November 2018

BARTÓK Complete String Quartets (Arcadia Quartet)
  • String Quartet No. 1
  • String Quartet No. 3
  • String Quartet No. 5
  • String Quartet No. 2
  • String Quartet No. 4
  • String Quartet No. 6

Wonderfully, we’ve reached a point where Bartók’s six string quartets are as much a calling card for an emerging quartet as Beethoven or Haydn. In their first recording for Chandos, the Arcadia Quartet show that they know their territory from the inside. As they explain in the booklet, they live and work in Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania, at the heart of the intermingled traditions of Romanian, Hungarian and Roma music that shaped Bartók’s emerging musical language.

If that arouses expectations of raw, rustic abandon, put them aside. Cluj-Napoca is surrounded not by the wild mountains of Bram Stoker’s imagination but by softly rolling hills. And behind every interpretation in this civilised, wonderfully atmospheric cycle, there’s a sense of deep assurance that makes any preconceptions about folk fiddles feel slightly embarrassing. Take the long cello and violin solos in the nocturnal central movement of No 4. There’s an eloquent poise to the way Ana and Zsolt Török phrase their lines that relates this music directly to central European classicism, and if you’ve already listened to the first movement of No 1, you’ll have expected no less. The violins unfurl their opening sighs wistfully and inwardly: this is music that’s emerging from an unmistakably Romantic world.

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In fact, these readings are so poetic and spacious that my first reaction to the opening movement of No 2 was ‘streamlined’ – so euphonious is the sound of the ensemble and so long-breathed their approach to Bartók’s slower music. Ensemble chords are ringing and ripe; cello and viola together generate a rich, velvety sonority to which the violins add a gleam that never entirely sharpens to a dazzle – not that it needs to here. Percussive pizzicatos and sul ponticello shivers are relished, but also controlled, and never played purely as effects. Chandos’s warm, slightly misty acoustic sets up a poetic atmosphere without blurring pianissimo detail.

True, you might prefer a more forensic approach to the single-movement Third Quartet or the jackhammer opening motif of the Fifth, but then perhaps you’d lose the doleful, quizzical aspect that the Arcadia Quartet give to the glissandos in No 3’s Ricapitulazione and the mood of tear-stained confession that they manage to imply in the background of even the faster movements of the Sixth Quartet. None of which is to deny that when the Arcadias catch the rhythmic groove of Bartók’s dance movements – the Alla bulgarese scherzo of No 5 has a particularly infectious swing – they can cut loose with positively Haydnesque verve.

There are certainly tauter, more focused Bartók cycles available: by comparison, the Heath Quartet’s recent cycle sounds precision-tooled. But if I was asked to recommend a Bartók cycle to a first-time listener intimidated by his spiky reputation, I’d send them straight to the Arcadia Quartet. Even for the aficionado, this spacious, big-hearted vision of Bartók as poet, dreamer and humourist has something distinctive and beautiful to say.

Richard Brat, Gramophone Magazine, November 2018,

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Arcadia Quartet Bartok CD review “As a whole, this version is unquestionably exquisite and worthy of a place in the premier division.”

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 7th November 2018

  The six String Quartets by Bartók are probably the most important contributions to the genre since Beethoven and they document better than any other group his development as a composer. Number 3 is the least accessible of the six in a more difficult ‘language’ than No. 1 and 2. It is also more compressed and lacks the infectious dance rhythms in the fast parts. Of course these works are already generously represented on CD (see Comparative Discography) since the early recordings of, among others, the Hungarian quartet (DG 457.740-2), Vegh quartet (Auvidis E 7717) and Fine Arts quartet (Saga 5203-5). But it was the Belcea quartet (EMI394.400-2), Hagen Quartet (DG 463.576-2), Emerson Quartet (DG 423.657-2) and Takács Quartet (Decca 476.1833) who gained the most fame. Not long ago the recording of the Heath Quartet (Harmonia Mundi HMM 90.7661 / 2) appeared, which also garnered praise. And now there is the Romanian Romanian Arcadia quartet Ana Török and Răsvan Dumitru (v), Trainan Boală (va) and Zsolt Török (vc) that was founded in 2006 when they studied at the Geheorghe Dima music academy in the Romanian Cluj-Napoca and probably has his CD debut here. Or that gives a special bond with the Bartók born in Sânnicolau Mare? You would almost say it. In order to accommodate all six quartets on two CDs, the odd numbers were placed on the one and the even tracks on the other CD. There is much to admire in these new interpretations. For example in the way in which equilibrium is ensured in the textures and the clarity of the voting. Also the way in which the counterpoint is unfolded in the first two quartets and the whirlwind subtlety in the last part of no. 3. The way in which the deeply tragic final of No 6 has been settled without tear, also deserves great appreciation. But the most impressive impression is how the music is grabbed by the neck skin and is really interpreted, such as in the final of No. 5 and the expressionist moments of No. 2 and 3. To hear how good these interpretations are, one could also listen to the brilliantly muted prestissimo and the allegretto pizzicato of no. 4 or the moving non troppo lento. As a whole, this version is unquestionably exquisite and worthy of a place in the premier division.
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New York Public Radio/WQXR name Arcadia Quartet/Complete Bartok String Quartets as one of ‘The Best Classical New Releases of October 2018’

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 2nd November 2018

Arcadia Quartet

The Best Classical New Releases of October 2018

From Bartók’s bone-chilling string quartets to Hakenberger’s dulcet motets, here are our favorite new releases.

With the exception of Haydn, who conceived the form, and Beethoven, who radically opened its emotional possibilities, it is often argued that no composer did more advance the string quartet than Béla Bartók. The Arcadia Quartet’s vibrant take on Bartók’s six quartets is prima facie evidence for this claim. Every quartet worth its salt has recorded at least one of Bartók’s, but the young Romanian ensemble takes pains to distinguish the composer’s most radical innovations — his peculiarly symmetrical notion of form, liberal use of extended technique and incorporation of hard-driving Hungarian folk rhythms — where other groups smooth them over. These works have a monstrous quality to begin with, and the Arcadia’s electrifying performance gives them an almost Frankensteinian sentience, groaning (the Fifth Quartet’s spectral Adagio), shrieking (the Third’s piercing Coda) and howling (the Fourth’s vicious finale) their way to, hopefully, inspiring the next great compositional mind to upend this medium. Available on Arkivmusic.

Zev Kane

Famous in Idaho – London Handel Players started their American tour on a high!

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 31st October 2018

London Handel Players and Baroque dancers, Mary Collins and Steven Player, have just completed a hugely successful tour of the West Coast of America and Canada.  Great to see such wonderful advertising of the concert in Idaho.  Thank you to all the presenters who invited them.  It has been a wonderful 10 days of concerts and workshops in Idaho, Boise, Vancouver Island and Vancouver.

16 October 2018: Tasmin Little and Piers Lane perform at Sydney Opera House tonight

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 16th October 2018

Piers Lane and Tasmin Little together in recital

In one of the most exciting collaborations of 2018, internationally acclaimed Australian piano virtuoso Piers Lane, partners with one of England’s greatest violinists, Tasmin Little. This will be a recital of dazzling works by some of the world’s best loved composers including Beethoven’s Spring Sonata.

This outstanding duo are firm favourites with audiences in Britain where they regularly collaborate and this eagerly anticipated performance marks their first full recital together in Sydney.

Presented by Andrew McKinnon Presentations. Information

BEETHOVEN: Sonata No.5 Op. 24 “Spring” – 26 minutes

BRAHMS: Sonata No. 3 in D minor – 24 minutes

KATS-CHERNIN: Russian Rag Revisited – 5 minutes

FRANCK: Sonata in A major – 28 minutes

Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch now on tour in the UK and Ireland

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 16th October 2018

Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch are currently on tour in the UK and Ireland.  You can catch one of their performances as follows:

14 October 2018        Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

16 October 2018        Queens Hall Centre, Hexham

17 October 2018       Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, Clitheroe

18 October 2018       St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda

19 October 2018       Sussex Downs College, Lewes

We look forward to the Trio returning to the UK no less than 5 times in the 19/20 season when they bring their programmes of Beethoven Trios to audiences up and down the country.