- String Quartet No. 12 in F major ("American"), B. 179 (Op. 96)
- String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11
- String Quartet No. 2 in D major
The Emerson Quartet is famous for its razor-sharp precision and emotional intensity, which is why their recordings of Beethoven and Bartók are so highly acclaimed. Tackling a program of romantic and lyrical string quartets, the American foursome bring a remarkable level of passion to this repertory. In their hands the syncopations in Dvorák's "American" Quartet are particularly perky, and the lush, gushing melodic lines in the Tchaikovsky and Borodin quartets are taut without sacrificing any atmosphere. Borodin's Quartet No. 2 -- themes of which were "borrowed" for the musical "Kismet" -- evokes the warm coziness of sitting before the fire on a Russian winter's evening. Tchaikovsky's First Quartet is most famous for its tender andante cantibile, but when it's played with backbone, as it is here, it's gripping from beginning to end. This recording is a perfect starting point for a basic library of chamber music.