Atomos: the art of musical concentration


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To celebrate its twenty years of existence, the internationally acclaimed Cuarteto Quiroga returns with its new album – the 8th release in their discography. This album represents a personal tribute to the genre and its literature from its origins to the present day, offering a unique perspective.

The album “ATOMOS” features works by three of the most important and historically influential composers in string quartet history: Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Béla Bartók. Additionally, it includes a world premiere recording of “Secreta,” a recent masterpiece by one of the absolute greatest living composers of our time, György Kurtág. The aim of “ATOMOS” is to illustrate how these composers, in their pursuit of the nucleus of musical expression, sought to compress sound to a particle incapable of further division—an atom (ἄτομος)—giving birth to some of the most striking musical achievements in this exceptional repertoire. The ability to convey a lot in a short space of time while maintaining idiomatic subtlety and constructing a complete narrative structure is indeed a quality of extraordinary and transformative rarity. This concision enhances the strength of the message, making compression the most genuine gesture of revolutionary vision in linguistic, narrative, and poetic terms. Brevity, in this context, enhances the eloquence of the message.

Throughout this fascinating journey into the art of musical concentration, these four extraordinary composers reveal, through the works recorded here, what is most remarkable in music and life—the ability to pare oneself down to the minimal essence and allow the music to speak for itself with the most persuasive eloquence and the most moving kind of beauty.

Formed in 2003, Cuarteto Quiroga takes its name from the Galician violinist Manuel Quiroga, one of the most outstanding string players in Spanish music history. In 2013, they became the first artists in residence of the Royal Palace of Madrid, granting them the opportunity to give regular performances on a unique set of decorated Stradivari instruments.

The Cuarteto Quiroga has garnered international recognition, winning the prestigious 2018 National Music Award of Spain and receiving prizes in several major international competitions, including Bordeaux, Paolo Borciani, Geneva, Beijing, Fnapec-Paris, and Palau Barcelona.

As one of the most dynamic and unique quartets of its generation, Cuarteto Quiroga impresses critics and audiences alike with its distinctive personality and bold, original approach to the string quartet repertoire.


String Quartet in d minor, Op.42, Hob.III:43: I. Andante ed innocentemente (Joseph Haydn)
String Quartet in d minor, Op.42, Hob.III:43: II. Minuetto. Allegretto - Trio (Joseph Haydn)
String Quartet in d minor, Op.42, Hob.III:43: III. Adagio e cantabile (Joseph Haydn)
String Quartet in d minor, Op.42, Hob.III:43: IV. Finale. Presto (Joseph Haydn)
String Quartet in f minor, Op.95, “Serioso”: I. Allegro con brio (Ludwig van Beethoven)
String Quartet in f minor, Op.95, “Serioso”: II. Allegretto ma non troppo (Ludwig van Beethoven)
String Quartet in f minor, Op.95, “Serioso”: III. Allegro assai vivace ma serioso (Ludwig van Beethoven)
String Quartet in f minor, Op.95, “Serioso”: IV. Larghetto espressivo - Allegretto agitato (Ludwig van Beethoven)
String Quartet No.3, BB.93 Sz.85: I. Prima parte. Moderato (Béla Bartók)
String Quartet No.3, BB.93 Sz.85: II. Seconda parte. Allegro (Béla Bartók)
String Quartet No.3, BB.93 Sz.85: III. Ricapitulazione della prima parte. Moderato (Béla Bartók)
String Quartet No.3, BB.93 Sz.85: IV. Coda. Allegro molto (Béla Bartók)
Secreta: Funeral music in memoriam László Dobszay (György Kurtág)
Sechs Bagatellen für Streichquartett, Op.9: V. Äußerst langsam (Anton Webern)

Additional information



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Recording Location

Westvest 90 Church Schiedam, The Netherlands

Producer, recording engineer

Tom Peeters

Original recording format



Bruel & Kjaer 4003, Neumann modified by Rens Heijnis
Neumann KU-100 (Binaural) modified by Rens Heijnis
Sonodere MPM-81


Acoustic Revive

Press reviews

Luister, december 2023 9 out of 5

Het programma van deze cd biedt een selectieve dwarsdoorsnede van de strijkkwartet literatuur…een frisse en spannende Haydn-vertolking…een intens gedreven uitvoering van Beethovens kwartet Serioso…het kwartet bewijst zich al even overtuigend in het nog steeds radicaal modern klinkende Derde strijkkwartet van Béla Bartók. Het desolate Secreta van György Kurtág is de passende afsluiting bij het thema van de cd…Ook in deze opname klinkt het kwartet realistisch, prachtig van klank en met een mooie ruimtelijke balans. Alle lof voor de producer-technicus Tom Peeters.

BBC Music Magazine, December 2023 5 out of 5

Haydn’s isolated D minor Quartet, Op. 42 is the shortest among his great string quartets…the performance is admirably intimate and expressive.

The players offer remarkably polished accounts of Beethoven’s Serioso’ Quartet, Op. 95, and Bartók’s Third Quartet. The final moments of the Beethoven, where the music seems to shrug off the intense drama that has been unfolding thus far, is dizzyingly fast, but it does reflect the composer’s metronome marking. 

Here- and throughout the recording – the playing itself is technically impeccable.

The Guardian

“Based in Madrid, the Cuarteto Quiroga’s raw energy, period performance detail and spine-tingling attack are on rampant display on their new album, marking the group’s 20th anniversary. Atomos(Cobra), ranging in repertoire from Haydn to Kurtág, takes its name from the ancient Greek for “art of musical concentration”. Haydn’s short Op 42 in D minor, full of subtlety and expression, sounds fresh and revolutionary. The opening of Beethoven’s Quartet in F minor Op 95, “Serioso” is fast and close to reckless, while at the same time controlled and agile. Bartók’s Quartet No 3, dense and expressive, expands emotionally beyond its 16-minute duration. To complete this chronological arc of works, they conclude with Webern’s Sechs Bagatellen, Op 9 and the first recording of Secreta: Funeral music in Memoriam László Dobszay, stark and cogent, by György Kurtág.”

Pizzicato 4 out of 5

The Cuarteto Quiroga, founded in 2003, can be heard here as one of the most dynamic of its generation. Distinctive in their approach of presenting the works fluidly according to the music and yet also with formative intervention, they lay out a personal approach to the string quartet repertoire.

Classical Explorerr

“The Quiroga’s principal achievement here is to convey the exploratory nature of Beethoven’s thought so well. One can easily point to the spectacular technical powers of the coda, but it is the sheer musical achievement here that is so impressive.”

“There are a lot of convincing performances of the Bartók String Quartets, but this is, I believe, the finest of the Third I have heard (including historical performances). It would be the ideal “in” for Bartók-deniers!.”

Seen and Heard International

“Effortless… in style… spirited in perfect tempo, with humour and crystal clear polyphony, (…) with relaxed virtuosity, incredible bowing technique and great sensitivity”

“Haydn quartet was delivered with effortless baroque/classical style, light bow strokes, mostly without vibrato, without sentimentality, with humour (…) spirited in perfect tempo and with crystal clear polyphonic voices.”

“Beethoven, strong passion allowed space to the gentle interludes (…) with strong musical chemistry between inner voices (…) remarkable for its relaxed virtuosity.”

“Bartók quartet was lovingly played with all the skills needed showing they do not need to be Hungarian to fully grasp Bartók’s musical world”

“In Kurtág the incredible bowing technique of the players served well the sustained slow progress to nothingness, with the cellist delivering the final ‘amen’ with great sensitivity.”

Positive Feedback

“The Quiroga play with a perfection of ensemble, a combined delicacy of articulation, a uniformity of intonation, and an endless reservoir of technique—it is an unalloyed joy to hear them play. And to hear whatever music they choose. Their albums are always intellectually challenging, educationally rewarding, and emotionally deep.”


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