in western classical music, the word "pastoral" can be problematic.... generally speaking, classical music is fancy and nature ain't. beethoven's pastorale, for instance: that's a lot of magnificence for some trees and a field to live up to. though certainly some trees + field can be supremely grand, i don't think beethoven provides the right fit to their kind of grandeur very often. fool's territory, i know, categorizing grandeurs, as though there's this just-so nature-compatible musical grandeur that i'm about to lay my finger on, whereupon everyone'll be like "oh, yeah, that grandeur" and i'll be like "yeah and that's what prokofiev hits on with these string quartets". but hey, i've never been one to retreat on fool's territory, so i'll continue, wearing my paper mache tree suit and all. so, did prokofiev have to unfancy the string quartet in order to approach the more earthly appeal of tree + field? no. one might've thought, but... no. so this IS fancy? yes. but what about... no. this is fancy and folky and free-spirited. but dignified though they are, these are two string quartets that wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with you eating corn on the cob on the porch in september. string quartets that might even chop a little goddamn wood once in a while, know what i'm saying? they're the kind of pastoral that might make you actually want to go outside. and once you're out at that field + trees with this music playing in your heart, it's an experience truly loving of all parties involved. hear.