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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding performances that have stood the test of time, 5 Jan 2011
By 
DMH "music lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) (Audio CD)
I first got to know these performances in the 1970's, when I particularly valued the insights the Quartetto Italiano gave into the late string quartets. I thought their performance of Op 132 was wonderful then; having just reacquainted myself with it after buying the set of CDs, I still think theirs is a glorious performance, all the better for nor being rushed or over-played. The sound on LP was on the warm side - on these CDs, the transfers seem to have gained in internal clarity while not losing much in warmth, and the illusion of eavesdropping on the performances is uncanny. I don't believe it's desirable to suggest that any one group has all the answers to these quartets, but the set by the Quartetto Italiano makes an excellent library version. To my mind it's as good in its own way as the set by the illustrious Vegh Quartet (originally on Audivis Valois, now re-released on Naive I believe).
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The utter core of my collection, and the core of Western music, 10 Jan 2008
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) (Audio CD)
I am surprised to find this set has not already been reviewed at least a dozen times. Surely this is the complete Beethoven String Quartets box set of choice? It's certainly superior to the Medici set which, while being much cheaper, is pretty hoarse and squeaky by comparison. I used to have some recordings by the Lindsays and found them mixed, though I am aware that the Lindsays did do a later cycle and I do not know how much more they might have worked them up.

These works are at the core of the Western classical tradition:

The six quartets Op.18 are models of the form as defined by Haydn, and then bought to relative perfection by Mozart. The pieces are a homage to the earlier masters, but at the same time we already hear the gritty edge by which Beethoven was to drag music out of the Classical era, full of grace and wit and charm, into the Romantic era, full of passion and untrammelled emotion.

The three Razumovsky quartets, Opus 59, are all major masterpieces of symphonic dimensions, and include moments of heart rending intensity and extraordinary excitement. Both 1 and 2 in this set have the most long and beautiful slow movements.

Op.74 and the brief but incredibly intense Op.95 are again masterpieces. At this stage in Beethoven's development we are well clear of the classical era and he is exploring all sorts of wild and uncharted territory.

Then we come to the late quartets, when the terrible old man broke through to a whole new level of genius, and entered a conceptual universe far beyond anything that anyone else was doing at the time, or even for a long while to follow. And finally we have the mighty Grosse Fugue which is one of the most fearsome pieces of music ever conceived by mind of man. Fearsome in spirit and fearsome in complexity. Written as a finale to the quartet Op.130, its effect on its first audiences was so shocking that he was obliged to abstract it out as a work in its own right, the infamous Op.133, and substitute it with something more tame. With it we see the first stirrings of the modernity that was to be rediscovered in the twentieth century, but with Beethoven's death, not long after it was written, it promptly went back to sleep for almost a hundred years. The Grosse Fugue is arguably ahead of its time, even today. If he had continued to live and to write music of this sort he most certainly would have changed the course of musical history to follow. He might have short circuited much of the nineteenth century and jumped straight ahead to the world of Schoenberg. A scary thought, unthinkable to many.

All of life is in this music, and if I had no music other than this I would still never be bored. The Quartetto Italiano are great. Their predominant sound is warm and silky, never abrasive except when required. They have a superficially stolid and humble approach to the music, which is entirely appropriate. Though you're hearing brilliant playing much of the time, that's not what one is aware of. What one is aware of is awe and reverence for the music. The recordings aren't as squeaky clean as most modern stuff, but it's perfectly acceptable and in no way interferes with the music.

Maybe one day I'll check out performances of these works by another quartet, but on the other hand, I could just spend the rest of my life listening to this one.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get better than this., 14 Jan 2013
By 
P. J. Bullough "70's child." (Shrewsbury, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) (Audio CD)
The Quartetto Italiano's Beethoven cycle has been part of my listening experience for the best part of forty years. At the tender age of 15 I bought a copy of opus 132, which was slightly hard going but slowly began to reveal its secrets. They recorded this first, and it clearly meant a great deal to the group. The slow movement is almost perfect, and the final section (of five) carries you off to heaven. There is a wonderful moment when the first violin holds a high note on its own, no other version I've heard has matched this performance. The only group of those I've heard that seems to have a similar 'feel' for the music is the Lyndsay Quartet, but they don't have the Italians' style and nobility. The Italians went on to record the rest of the cycle during the next 8 years, ending with a revelatory set of the Opus 59s. I was moved to write this as I just listened to the first of these, op.59 no. 1. The measured pace for the opening allegro allows time and space for every musical idea to register properly, just superb. The scherzo also benefits from a measured pace, and the slow movement is awesome. You get drawn into a magical and complex world of ideas and feelings, this is on a par with the late quartets, and really this must be be the pinnacle of all music. The Italian performances are near perfect, they radiate love, humanity and humility, and continue to shine as a beacon of sanity and compassion in our troubled world.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless, 11 July 2012
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) (Audio CD)
This incredible music is available on numerous recordings. Some are good e.g. Busch, Lindsay. But none compare to those of the Italian Quartet. It is hard to believe that this recording of this music could ever be surpassed
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven String Quartets, 17 April 2011
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This review is from: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) (Audio CD)
Packaging of this set is compact, but minimal, with tight cardboard sleeves for the discs.
The Quartetto Italiano are of course excellent, with no predominant egos. This recording sounds much the same as vinyl version, with the usual (small) analogue versus digital differences. The photo of the group is poor, the boxed vinyl version being much better as well as larger. My favourite has always being the first quartet, OP18, No3, and remains so.
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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs)
Beethoven: Complete String Quartets (10 CDs) by Ludwig van Beethoven (Audio CD - 1996)
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