Arditti Quartet / Anton Webern - The Complete String Trios and Quartets (1991), 7/10

The Arditti Quartet adds another perfectly executed recording of groundbreaking compositions from Webern to their catalogue. Webern's pieces are anxious and distressing, creating quite an individual atmosphere and this is the prime recording of his work. There is an almost constant, wonderous tension, periodically broken up by beautiful serenades filled with lucid and rapturous playing. While it is extremely consistent, there are clearly some pieces that are more moving than others depending on your sensibilities this may differ. The longest in Streichquartett (1905) is the most effective perhaps due to its length, which provides a seemingly necessary platform for the performance to gain a stronger foothold than the rest and fully realize its aspirations. There is something to be said that as an album experience, the tone is not quite varied enough to warrant its classification as a masterpiece, but it achieves its aim with totality and a surprising amount of grace considering the material’s structure. The use of space and oscillating passages playing with dynamics is again, masterfully executed. There is a theme of cycling melodies and rhythms that make certain passages more interesting than others, garnering attention and relieving it in an almost frustrating fashion, but this eventually leads to a narrative quality that I ultimately find endearing rather than detracting from the experience in any substantial way. The pieces themselves can feel scattered when compiled in this fashion and order, but the realization of the compositions as individual works is carried out with precision and distinction.