String Quartets

The sleeve of a late-'60s LP featuring the 2nd and 3rd String Quartets composed Carl Nielsen' rum.

Above is the sleeve of a 1968 LP, acquired last month, on which the second and third of Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s four string quartets are performed by the Copenhagen Quartet. I’m still getting to know these pieces, but my provisional preference out of the two is for the more straightforwardly ebullient second over the third. I very much like the record’s cover image too (very much of its time). The style of the drawing or painting seems maddeningly familiar, though the sleeve only credits the ‘Decca Publicity Art Department’ with the sleeve design: I don’t know if they commissioned the image or made it themselves. I have my doubts that it’s an actual depiction of the Copenhagen Quartet.

The record brings the current count of string quartets I have on vinyl up to thirty-one. As well as the Nielsen ones there’s Berg’s Quartet Op. 3; three late Beethoven quartets (nos. 14-16); Borodin’s renowned 2nd (two renditions of that one); three of Dvořák’s (nos. 8, 10 & 12); no fewer than a dozen by Haydn (plus another one misattributed to him); Elgar’s op. 83 Quartet; both of Janáček’s; Ravel’s sole Quartet; Prokofiev’s 2nd; both of Smetana’s; & Tchaikovsky’s 1st. There’s some overlap between that list and the rather longer one of CD string quartet recordings on my shelves. At one time or another I’ve also owned (on vinyl) some Mozart quartets; a couple by Schubert; at least three more of Beethoven’s; four of Bartók’s and yet more of Haydn’s. I’d love to find some of Shostakovich’s quartets too on black plastic one of these days, despite already having most of them in digital form.