Friday, March 24, 2017

Happy Birthday, Béla Bartók!

Béla Bartók, 1939
Last year, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Bartók's birth (March 25, 1881), Decca Classics issued a box set of his complete works on 32 CDs. One of these days I suppose I will have to spring for that, but meanwhile, I have acquired and hereby present a somewhat more modest offering, although, I think, no less valuable. Remarkably, Bartók's Sixth Quartet received three recordings in the 78-rpm era, more than did any of his major works except the Concerto for Orchestra and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (each of which also received three 78-rpm recordings). The first, by the Gertler Quartet for Decca, can be heard at the CHARM website; the second, by the Hungarian Quartet for HMV, I have myself uploaded previously. The third, also for HMV, followed the second by scarcely a month:

Bartók: Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 (1939)
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Svendsen)
Recorded April 26, 1948
HMV DB 20104 through DB 20106, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 73.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.25 MB)

One imagines that the HMV office in Copenhagen was unaware of the existence of the Hungarians' recording (made while that ensemble was in London), or else this duplication of repertoire would probably not have been sanctioned. Then again, the Danish recording had the advantage of price, as it is the only one of the three versions that gets the piece onto three discs rather than four. David Hall, writing in Records: 1950 Edition, sums up the respective merits of the three recordings this way: "The Gertler Quartet recording for English Decca offers the most dramatic and colorful treatment of the music; the Danish Erling Bloch Quartet ensemble, the most lean and rhythmically supple; while the Hungarian Quartet has some of the best qualities of both." He then strongly suggests waiting for the forthcoming Juilliard Quartet recordings of all the Bartók quartets for Columbia...


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Yay! Thank you so much! Very best wishes, Nick

    1. Once again, thank you so much for this and your other Bartók uploads (not to mention everything else you so generously share) - it's fascinating to compare these versions and I've very much enjoyed listening to them all again! Best wishes, Nick

  3. Ooh!! Thank you so much for this!
    All the best,

  4. Dear Bryan,
    thanks for the birthday celebration and rare recording.
    Bartok is a great composer.
    I had the chance to meet and watch Dorati rehearsing several Bartok programs: unforgettable lessons of music and humanity !