Session Report: Final Frontier

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The Jerusalem Quartet’s second instalment of Bartók string quartets brings a new delicacy and clarity to these works, which are so often portrayed as brutal. Violinist Alexander Pavlovsky and violist Ori Kam discuss their approach with Tom Stewart

‘Our vision of Bartók has been different from a very early stage,’ says Jerusalem Quartet violist Ori Kam. The group has just completed its two-part Bartók cycle with a recording of the composer’s first, third and fifth string quartets, following their disc (released in 2016) of the second, fourth and sixth that stood out for its clarity and lightness of touch. The works’ faster passages mesmerise the listener with their swirling currents and grinding changes of gear – and even the most tranquil episodes can feel like eldritch fever dreams – but there is nothing overwrought about the quartet’s playing. ‘Instead of trying to overwhelm,’ Kam says, ‘we wanted to be as transparent as we could – more transparent than in recordings that have come before.’..

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