The Budapest String Quartet
Great Performances Vol. 21
Bridge is pleased to continue its survey of the Budapest String Quartet's great concert legacy. The Budapest Quartet was the resident group at the Library of Congress from 1940 to 1962, playing more than 450 concerts in the Coolidge Auditorium, and Artur Balsam was among their most frequent guest artists. This superb pianist, born in Warsaw in 1906, became Nathan Milstein’s accompanist in 1938 and in 1940, and followed the violinist to America. Among the other string players with whom Balsam worked were Adolf Busch, Zino Francescatti, Yehudi Menuhin, Erica Morini, Zara Nelsova, Oscar Shumsky and Joseph Szigeti. He died in New York City in 1994. The Hindemith sonata features Balsam with the oldest member of the quartet, Boris Kroyt (1897-1969). Hindemith is a composer many people will not associate with ‘the Budapest’, but in 1943 the quartet commissioned Hindemith's Sixth String Quartet in E flat, premièring it at the Library. The famous Op. 11, No. 4 Sonata was more youthfully romantic than the sort of music Hindemith was producing by the time he himself premièred this sonata in 1919. Kroyt relishes this romanticism, lavishing lovely tone on Hindemith’s phrases. Brahms wrote his Horn Trio with the natural horn in mind, which accounts for its somewhat archaic melodic shape. Balsam anchors this fine performance, with pianism of true Brahmsian weight, and the horn part is taken by the distinguished American player John R. Barrows (1913-74). His artistry here, in a staple of the horn repertoire, is beyond praise. Taking the violin part is Jac Gorodetzky, the quartet's distinguished second violinist. Shostakovich wrote his Piano Quintet so that he could have something to play with his friends in the legendary Beethoven Quartet, and from its first performance in 1940 it was a huge success. In this reading, one could use the Budapest's beautiful performance of Shostakovich's fugue as an illustration of some of the quartet's best qualities, with the various entries giving a good idea of the individual players’ tonal profiles.