There was a time when the Bartók quartets were the toughest challenge a string quartet could face, and when no one played them as well as the Juilliard Quartet. Yet the foursome’s pathbreaking stereo recording of the complete set for Columbia Masterworks has until now never been reissued on widely- available CD. Thanks to ArkivMusic, this extraordinary document of a great ensemble blazing away at great music is now back in the catalog, a reminder of the revolutionary impact both the music and these performers had on the 20th century. Recorded at Columbia’s 30th Street studio in May and September of 1963, having been honed to perfection in the crucible of performance, these accounts still sound “hot” 47 years later, still convey how edgy and exotic Bartók’s idiom remained nearly two decades after his death. For the Juilliards the recording was a tour de force. As for Bartók...well, this was how the six quartets truly entered the repertory, and how my generation came to know them. The sound, outstanding for the time, is dry, close-miked, and analytic—typical of Columbia’s engineering during the 1960s and ideal for this music, allowing the listener to hear everything right down to the page turns. Available from arkivmusic. com.