These are exhilarating performances, recorded live in 1989.
The tempi are generally on the faster side. The ABQ play with the greatest intensity.
The faster than usually heard tempi in the adagio's were a shock at first, and can make one wonder whether some of the profundity is lost, however the overall conception and vision of the ABQ's performance is utterly compelling on its own terms, and I found myself relishing the very different sounding late quartets I was hearing, even if the adagio's were not as movingly rendered as I have heard elsewhere (such as the Vegh or the Italian Quartet recordings)
The playing is often wildly intense, but with absolute uniformity and virtuosity. Quite remarkable.
These performances compel, and I felt that I was hearing these pieces anew, which was a wonderful experiance.
If I had to choose a cycle that best exemplified the mysterious, spiritual side of these quartets for me, it would probably be the Vegh Quartet's 1972 recordings.
However this ABQ cycle is now amoung my favorite late quartet recordings- because it is such a different performance. The ABQ have a very unique and compelling approach to these master works, and experiencing it is tremendously exciting.
If you are very familiar with other established recordings of the late quartets, I warmly commend this modestly priced set to augment your collection. You just might feel that you are hearing the late quartets for the first time again, and its a thrilling experience.
My only complaint is that the Grosse Fugue is on a seperate disc from the Op 130, causing an interruption for those of us who prefer to listen to it as the finale to Op 130 as Beethoven originally intended.