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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Box set


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Biography

Tokyo String Quartet

Martin Beaver, violin

Kikuei Ikeda, violin

Kazuhide Isomura, viola

Clive Greensmith, cello

After 43 seasons, the Tokyo String Quartet has announced that 2012-2013 will be their last. Regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world, the Tokyo Quartet—Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) and ... Read more in Amazon's Tokyo String Quartet Store

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Product details

  • Performer: Tokyo String Quartet
  • Audio CD (1 Oct. 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Sony Music Classical
  • ASIN: B008BOWG7C
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,663 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (Tokyo String Quartet)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 24 Oct. 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Four stars is half a star too few but despite my love for and admiration of this lovely quartet I want to signal in a small way one or two minor reservations regarding this splendid bargain set.

First, however, let me say that no-one could argue with the artistic integrity, the sweet intonation, or the ability of the Tokyo Quartet to combine seamlessly in this Everest of chamber music. Nor is there any argument about the production values and sound engineering of these recordings, all made for RCA Red Seal between December 1989 and July 1992. Anyone wanting a "starter" - or indeed, a supplementary - set at a bargain price is indeed getting a bargain without any of the attendant bargain-basement drawbacks: this is refined, responsive playing by one of the most respected quartets ever in all its 24 bit digital glory.

However, it is that very elegance which, without ever being bland, occasionally makes me wish for a rawer edge and a little more passion and attack of the kind I hear from the Medici Quartet in their Nimbus bargain set - one which I have always enjoyed but which has attracted what is, in my estimation, wholly unjustified opprobium from some quarters for their supposed "ugliness" of sound. While the sublime Cavatina of Op. 130 might require paying of the most exquisite delicacy, there are also many passages and movements, especially in the later quartets, which demand a more elemental and robust treatment to reflect the strife inherent in the music. I want to hear more thwack and thrum of bow on gut. My other cavil is the extent to which I can hear the sniff of the lead violinist on the upbeat before each bar, which can be become quite a distraction as one aurally anticipates yet another intrusive nasal prelude to each long phrase.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By sun-treader on 11 Feb. 2015
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I love this string quartet , and these recordings are a wonderful example of
ensemble playing of the highest order ! You really feel that they truly love
the fire and the sparks really fly especially in the first and middle quartets .
Although they perhaps don't match the width or depth of the Vegh or early
Talich in the last great quartets , these are truly great performances and I
totally recommend them to all great music lovers - priceless !!!
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Phil.V on 28 Sept. 2013
Format: Audio CD
I have not listened to all of the Beethoven quartets by the Tokyo String Quartet, but what I have heard do far is very delicate and composed. As noted in some other reviews there may be here and there a little lack of grit and rush.

One remark is that the interpreters are those of the original TSQ: Peter Oudjian, violin; Kikuei Ikeda, violin; Kazuhide Isomura, viola; Sadao Harada, cello.
Two of the current interpreters Martin Beaver, violin and Clive Greensmith, cello, came much later (post 2000), with some other interpreters at the first violin position from 1994 (when Peter Oudjian had to retire playing the violin) to 2002.

Though there is noting unusual for an ensemble to change interpreters, I am surprised that there is no mention at all of it by Amazon: not on the description of the Box Set, nor, even worse, on the biography of the TSQ. This is unfair to the past interpreters and to the unsuspecting customer.

May be Amazon is not too much to blame after all: the current TSQ official website totally ignores the past and concentrates only on the current Harmonia Mundi recordings. For the whole saga on can check TSQ on Wikipedia.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 0 reviews
80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Tokyo Qt in its prime 19 Oct. 2012
By RJAdams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
A rewarding traversal from beginning to end and an easy recommendation. This was originally issued on RCA Red Seal in the Tokyo's heyday in the early 90s. Both sound and performances are impeccable. The Tokyo Quartet play as four partners with fine control of rhythm and pulse, exquisite intonation, power and thrust without thrashing and flailing, and tonal beauty. Execution is about the music, not virtuosity.

Leader Peter Oundjian can provide thrills as a brilliant virtuoso (the cadenza in the 1st mvt of the Harp Qt) but this is about superb teamwork above all. Other sets may call more attention to pyrotechnics (Emerson, Takacz) or emote more (stereo Budapest, Borodin). I'd rate this set above the Talich and Borodin II and III surveys, equal to the under-recognized Gewandhaus Qt, and just below the great early 50s performances, in so-so mono sound (but what atmosphere), of the Hungarian Quartet when Zoltan Szekely was the group's leader. There are undoubtedly recordings of individual quartets that one may be more attached to (I can tolerate the Lindsay's wiry first violin for the excitement and searching nuance of the group's readings, and their sonorous viola and cello). I admire but am not a big fan of the highly praised Emerson and Takacz Quartets. Their huge sound and virtuosity fatigue me. I am fond of the brilliant Juilliard and Guarneri accounts, some of the first I ever heard, even though they sometimes miss the innigkeit (an inward spiritual dimension) found in the Tokyo, Hungarian, and Lindsays accounts.

Most collectors will have more than one complete set as well as several individual recordings of their favorites of these quartets. Over the years I have lived with numerous sets, but not all have grown on me. The Tokyo set definitely has, and I would not think of parting from it.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
the bargains keep coming . . . 3 May 2013
By Stanley Crowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
EMI and RCA/Sony seem to be in a competition these days about which company can offer the best bargain boxes. All I can say is, Keep 'em coming. Here we have the Tokyo Quartet, in the early 1990's, in unobtrusively fine digital sound, with the complete Beethoven String Quartets. On nine discs for under $25.00, it's an amazing bargain. I haven't sampled everything on the disc yet, but I've listened to early, late and middle quartets, and I have been totally satisfied. The Tokyo Quartet had been playing for over 20 years, with only one significant personnel change when these recordings were made, and their unanimity of approach and precision of attack, and lovely blooming tone (when appropriate) are everything you would expect from a quartet of stature. Compared to the excellent Alban Berg Quartet, which was founded at almost exactly the same time, the Tokyo players offer a tone that is more refined (or less earthy, if you will), and they seem more willing to linger in the slower movements, but not to any self-indulgent degree. The Opus 18 material that I sampled showed the quartet comfortably inhabiting the classical style, with plenty of energy in the outer movements, and reposeful songfulness in the slow ones. The scherzos were pointed and witty -- just delightful. The freer manners of the middle quartets (I played the Op. 59, no. 1) were handled with equal aplomb. Their reading was certainly not inferior to that of the Alban Bergs, and perhaps not even of the Takacs, although the Decca sound for the Takacs is unusually lovely, I think. For a late quartet, I played the op. 127. It is given a marvelous reading -- the contrast between its sound-world and that of Op. 18 is amazing, and one wonders just how Beethoven got from the one to the other -- a stylistic jump to invented freedom comparable to that made in his medium by the poet Yeats. The long slow movement of the Op. 127 is almost a string quartet in itself, and the deployment of all the instruments to create a texture that is quite unlike anything heard in the quartet medium before Beethoven is a wonder in itself. The Tokyo players play it with great feeling and concentration, alive to all the shifts of harmony and texture, and never losing the forward movement. The viola entry in the tenth minute is heart-stopping, and the solid grounding and clear focus of Sadao Harada's cello underpins the movement (and many other movements in this set) beautifully. A great reissue -- don't miss it!
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Elegant, homogenous and unfailingly musical 24 Oct. 2012
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Four stars is half a star too few but despite my love for and admiration of this lovely quartet I want to signal in a small way one or two minor reservations regarding this splendid bargain set.

First, however, let me say that no-one could argue with the artistic integrity, the sweet intonation, or the ability of the Tokyo Quartet to combine seamlessly in this Everest of chamber music. Nor is there any argument about the production values and sound engineering of these recordings, all made for RCA Red Seal between December 1989 and July 1992. Anyone wanting a "starter" - or indeed, a supplementary - set at a bargain price is indeed getting a bargain without any of the attendant bargain-basement drawbacks: this is refined, responsive playing by one of the most respected quartets ever in all its 24 bit digital glory.

However, it is that very elegance which, without ever being bland, occasionally makes me wish for a rawer edge and a little more passion and attack of the kind I hear from the Medici Quartet in their Nimbus bargain set - one which I have always enjoyed but which has attracted what is, in my estimation, wholly unjustified opprobium from some quarters for their supposed "ugliness" of sound. While the sublime Cavatina of Op. 130 might require paying of the most exquisite delicacy, there are also many passages and movements, especially in the later quartets, which demand a more elemental and robust treatment to reflect the strife inherent in the music. I want to hear more thwack and thrum of bow on gut. My other cavil is the extent to which I can hear the sniff of the lead violinist on the upbeat before each bar, which can be become quite a distraction as one aurally anticipates yet another intrusive nasal prelude to each long phrase. I hope that's not too trivial or petty a complaint but it does bother me, especially in the extended Adagio of the "Heiliger Dankgesang" in Op.132.

Otherwise, this is simply lovely playing, irreproachable and unimpeachable in its musicality. Nine well-filled discs for very little outlay in yet another of these Sony collections being rapidly issued in succession to a grateful listening public quick to know a steal when it sees it.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Delightful, engaging and gorgeously recorded 10 Sept. 2012
By David Rowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm not sure why I've always shied away from Beethoven's string quartets. Probably becuase I had not yet encountered this set. The Tokyo String Quartet has always been one of my favorites (their Ravel and Debussy quartets on RCA are wonderful). This set of complete Beethoven Quartets is superb in every way - engaging, delightful, extremely musical and exciting. There is never a dull moment, not even in the slow movements, which are sensitively played and kept moving along at just the perfect tempi. Adding to this, the recorded sound is spectaular - warm and full, in the perfect acoustic, with just the right amount of hall ambience (reverberation).

All in all, this is some of the most rewarding and satisfying Beethoven I've heard in years. Highly recommended, espeically at this new box set price, complete with 24bit remastering - with never any hint of digital edge. Gorgeous!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
For My Money, As Good as Any 3 Jan. 2014
By PG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I know it sounds stupid to call this Beethoven or that Beethoven the "best ever" given the stunningly diverse array of talent that has interpreted the music in front of the microphones. But this is a very, very special set. I get the idea that Beethoven needs to be "rugged"; that in the late quartets especially, an interpretation can be "too pretty" to go where the music needs to go. But I also sense the incredibly songful nature of this music, not only in the joyous steroidal classicism of the Opus 18's, but in the melodic yearning emanating from Beethoven in his late years as well. I hear deep, craggy, rugged Beethoven from the Vegh Quartet, and the sheer beauty of Beethoven's writing from the Borodins, the Quartetto Italiano and a few others. But here I hear both of those elements (and a whole lot more) in sensitive performances caught in remarkable sound. I wouldn't be without them.
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