HAYDN: String Quartet in C, Op. 76 No. 3 "Emperor." String Quartet in B flat, Op. 76 No. 4 "Sunrise." BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 5 in A, Op. 18 No. 5.
Quartetto Italiano
PENTATONE SACE PTC 5186 189 TT: 79:26

HAYDN: String Quartet in B minor, Op. 33 No. 1. String Quartet in D, Op. 33 No. 6. String Quartet in B flat, Op. 33 No. 4. String Quartet in D minor, Op. 42.
Párkányi Quartet
PRAGA SACD 250261 TT: 68:39

MARTINU: String Quartet No. 6, H. 312. String Quartet No. 3, H. 183. String Quartet No. 1, H. 117.
Zemlinsky Quartet (Quartet No. 1); Prazák Quartet
PRAGA SACD 250254 TT: 72:26

Chamber music enthusiasts will welcome these fine new releases. Pentatone has found more treasures from the early Philips quadro vaults featuring Quartetto Italiano, the two Haydn quartets recorded in Switzerland in January 1976 in Musica Théatre La Chaux de Fonds, the Beethoven in July 1973 also in Switzerland but a different venue: Salle des Remparts, La Tour de Peilz. Vittorio Negri was producer and captured incredibly vivid rich sound that belies the fact that these recordings were made well over three decades ago. This is a generous compilation (79:26); let us hope there will be many more gems from the early days of multi-channel recording.

The Párkányi Quartet also has an association with Philips. In 1976, violinists István Párkányi and Heinbz Oberdorfer, violist Ferdinant Erblich and cellist Stefan Metz formed the Orlando String Quartet and won many prestigious prizes as well as a recording contract with Philips, an association that produced a number of prize-winning disks. This quartet disbanded in 1984 but has reorganized, this time with cellist Michael Müller. In the past few years, they have made many fine SACDs for Praga in a wide repertory. Now we have a second disk, the second in their Haydn series, devoted to the four quartets listed above recorded in June 2009 in Prague's Domovina Studio.

Particularly welcome is Praga's SACD that completes the label's traversal of Bohuslav Martinu's six string quartets (Nos. 2, 4 and 5 were issued several years ago). These are complex, challenging works that have been neglected on recordings by major string quartets. Influences of Dvorák, Smetana and Impressionistic composers are evident, the latter in the brief (12:29) three-movement Quartet No. 3. Martinu particularly enjoyed writing chamber music in his own distinctive style, and these superb performances convey his joy of composition. All three quartets are given insightful performances, and the sound, altough quite close up, is excellent.

R.E.B. (January 2010)