So i was harsh on them earlier, but i've been listening quite a lot to numbers 3-6.
I have come to prefer 3 and 5, 5 in particular has some lovely passages- the scherzo in SQ#5 in particular brings some color and light to what are otherwise fairly grim scenes, i love the vitality in these two quartets, while SQ#6 seems so bleak and desolate (as do the slow movements in other SQs), i love music with real vigor, energy. I love the plucked glissandi in SQ#3 and the occasional outbursts of visceral dissonances. I wish i could share this music with someone with strong ears, theres some very good stuff here. Bartok often appears to really be interested in sonority in a very modern (read: contemporary) way, and this surprises me for some reason. There are those passages where the musical material seems preoccupied with giving the listener something they're unprepared to hear... something they have not heard before and something interesting in a purely aural sense.
SQ 4 has not impressed me yet. I didn’t find much of interest, but i should give it another fair listen.
All and all Bartok is difficult to listen to in that his musical material is rarely revisited and the variations (or development) spun off the opening material are often difficult to follow. His harmonies often lack enough contrast to bring warmth or color, but sometimes flow into a certain monotony in black and gray. The dissonance is great, but it is rarely intense to the point of becoming visceral or passionate, or even surprising or interesting. This is bartok at his worst, but like i said, at his best he really hits it off, he brings some really great ideas to the string quartet form.
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