45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Music - Brilliantly Performed
This limited edition for the Haydn Bi-Centenary is a bargin price reissue of renowned Aeolian Quartet recordings from the 1970's. They are brilliantly played the late analogue sound has been well remastered by Decca.
It is strange there are so few complete recordings of these quartets as the music is quite superb. From the early 'divertimento' type pieces...
Published on 7 Jun 2009 by J. Gibbons
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Of its time.
I'm new to this set. It's certainly a bargain at this price. Unmissable?
First - the 70s Decca sound dates. The treble becomes irritating above mf, and glassily worse above the stave. The cello is beautifully played, but the focus (in these of all quartets) is on the leader, rather than the blend of the ensemble. Hans Keller, when producing a broadcast,...
Published 18 months ago by Peter Street
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Music - Brilliantly Performed,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)This limited edition for the Haydn Bi-Centenary is a bargin price reissue of renowned Aeolian Quartet recordings from the 1970's. They are brilliantly played the late analogue sound has been well remastered by Decca.
It is strange there are so few complete recordings of these quartets as the music is quite superb. From the early 'divertimento' type pieces through to the profound later works there is never a dull moment.
The Aeolian Quartet were a very fine unit. The ensemble blend of messrs Hurwitz, Keenlyside, Major and Simpson is a joy to hear. They have beautiful intonation, fine attack, and a superb sense of rhythm.
Whether this is the finest set on the market is, of course, a matter of personal opinion but, for me, this an absolutely essential group of recordings and one which, I am sure, will give a lifetime of pleasure to anyone who loves Haydn's music.
On a pedantic note the six quartets Opus 3 have been omitted as these are held not to be by Haydn. Also missing are three early quartets which are, in fact, arrangements of works for larger ensembles.
A true gramophone classic which deserves a permanant place in the catalogue - especially at the very attractive price at which it has been offered. Beware though, it is limited edition so may not be available for long.
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best investment you will ever make.,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)I love these performances, as much as I love the celebrated Angeles Quartet. Both are stylistically and interpretively different from each other. The sound quality is closely miked on the Decca recording for the Aeolian's; the engineering for the Angeles under Philips is more naturally balanced. Natural balance however, isn't necessarily to everybody's taste; which is why the Angeles performances have been unfairly criticised by some factions (usually those who have been used to harder edged, multi tracked analogue recordings - including myself). The Decca set does come from that era, the good old 70's. However, although the Aeolian performances are relatively old recordings (1972-76), they too, like the Angeles, are blessed with a consistently even sound spectrum. All of the attributed quartets are performed (exactly the same as the Angeles), except the 22nd disc contains an added bonus through its inclusion of The Seven Last Words Of Our Saviour On The Cross, arranged for string quartet.
On the whole, at least 99 percent of the Aeolian quartet interpretations are rock solid, with lush, beautiful phrasing and a strong emphasis towards attention to detail. There is a slight bias towards the 1st violin (but this is a natural process in the early ten quartets, because these were the first examples of the genre), up until the Opus 9 quartets. Thereafter, you will marvel at the ever increasing invention and development of whom I will always believe to be the absolute master of string quartet writing. As mentioned earlier, the sound quality is uniform across the board of this massive traversal, and I would categorise the sound quality as vintage Decca `top drawer'. It was meant to be, primarily because this was only the second `complete' Haydn quartet project; so there is special feel; a real sense of spirit and occasion. The recording sessions were running more or less, side by side, with the another, major complete Haydn cycle - Dorati's recordings of the symphonies. If you are fortunate to own both of these sets in your collection, it would be like owning the crown jewels of classical music.
It is really difficult to find any major fault with this collection; whichever way you look at it. I've listened to all of these discs on a few occasions, within a time-span of a couple of years, and I can perhaps only pinpoint one or two very minor reservations. Firstly, some of the quartet groups are split; which is less of a problem with the disc layout by the Angeles set. For example, the early quartets are arranged in the normal way (not a problem, as there are less actual quartet groups); and the Opus 9's are separated evenly, 3 quartets of the opus 9 on one disc, 3 on the next, and so on. All good up to now; and this continues quite nicely up until you get to the Opus 33. After that, Decca decided it was justifiable to fit as many quartets on a disc as they can. So instead of them being split, 3 and 3; you get the first 4 Opus 33 on one disc, the last 2 on the next, with the D minor (Opus 42.) and the first quartet of the Opus 50.
Of course, you can now see where this is going. For example, I have always been able to listen to the Opus 54 quartets on one disc, i.e., Amadeus, Kodaly and Lindsay quartets. Unfortunately you can't always listen to a complete quartet set with the Aeolian's. With the aforementioned opus 54, you have to listen to the first quartet at the end of disc 13, and proceed with the last 2 on disc 14, which also has the beginnings of Opus 55, etc., etc. On one disc, you get the Opus 64 quartets 2 - 5. On another disc, you get the last of the Opus 74 quartets, followed by Opus 76 1 and 2, followed by the final, unfinished quartet, Opus 103. It's quite an untidy arrangement. Psychologically this arrangement can lead you to passing over the contents within this box, in favour of the more chronologically balanced Angeles set (if you owned both collections of course), even if you are in the mood for the more `in your face', gutsy performances by the Aeolians. It's also strange how this rather makeshift layout doesn't make one iota of difference with regard to number of discs which make up the set (there are 21 with the Angeles, 22 for the Aeolians due to the Seven Last Words). With the Angeles, nearly each and every set of quartets is split evenly. It might be something you need to bear in mind if you are deciding which complete collection you are opting for. Incidentally, disc layout is a little less important if you are going to burn them to your hard drive or portable playing device. If this were the case, you may not care about track tidiness issues, but I thought I'd better mention it. Although I use an ipod, it is not my primary equipment for listening. I like to listen to CD's, and the way that some of these quartets are arranged is slightly irritating, although it should not deter you from purchasing this set. The playing of the Aeolian quartet is absolutely flawless, and you would be hard pushed to find a better interpretation of any of Haydn's grouped quartets. If this was the only complete set you owned, you'd be extremely pleased, and you probably wouldn't even need to seek out other interpretations. Every quartet is played with crisp, clean attack. A little like the Amadeus quartet, with a lusty, ripe sound.
If you're shopping around for a complete set, there are three rivals. This, the Kodaly and Angeles sets. All three have their merits, and yet none could be said to be the `defining' set of Haydn quartets; although I'd have to say that the Aeolians are possibly the most consistent, primarily because their sound is less controversial than the Angeles. The Kodaly too, are extremely proficient in every department; they have a lovely, warm, Bohemian sound. However, there is an element of routine with regards to some of their performances; also the Kodaly's Opus 20 is horrendously slow in nearly ever department. On the plus side, the Kodaly's Opus 76 is very hard to beat; it was awarded a Rosette in the Penguin Guide to Classical Music, and the accolade is totally justified. Although the Kodaly were recorded in a few different locations, they are generally wonderful. They have their own particular, gorgeous tone, which is instantly recognisable, no matter what location the recording was made, so it's not really that much of an issue.
One thing which is worth bearing in mind is that the Angeles are recorded in a sound quality which is particularly appealing when listening for long periods of time. Sharp edged, analogue recordings do tend to get a little tiresome after a few discs (although this isn't the case for everyone), and the pleasing acoustic and sweetness of tone delivered by the Angeles quartet are wonderful virtues which should be taken into consideration when ultimately deciding how you like your Haydn to sound. However, it must be admitted that the Aeolians produce a really rich, clear, mid section, a soaring lead violin (Emmanuel Hurwitz) and a strong, solid, articulate cello line in the lower register.
The Aeolian's are still available; but the options are running out. It's quite noticeable that these performances are becoming increasingly difficult to acquire. There is a strong possibility that this set may become obsolete in the not too distant future. They did try to revive this edition in 2009 during Haydn's bicentennial year, with a new look cover (which is really rather nice), but it hasn't really taken off. The vast majority of music lovers are turning towards the newer digital formats. However, boxed collections such as this, should be snapped up whenever they appear. It is still always better to have the discs - that way, you can convert them to whatever format you like, and keep the discs in good condition; thus maintaining their value. However, value wouldn't really matter because this is a set which you would keep for life and pass on to the next generation.
Whatever your decisions in life are, don't pass up on the opportunity of becoming a proud owner of these marvellous performances; and I really mean that. They will most certainly provide you with a life time of enjoyment. Even at a considerable outlay, it would be worth every penny in the long run. It's a set you'll cherish forever; it'll always be there, on your shelf, tempting you to dip into the endless variety of contents within. Even if you put them on your ipod, you'll still want to take the discs out for a spin in a real music player. It's highly unlikely that they will become a forgotten ornament, because there is so much diversity and fascination throughout to keep you interested indefinitely. The playing from start to finish is full of vivacity and passion, and the depth, and beauty of tone is highly infectious. I've only had this set for a couple of years. I purchased it not long after the Angeles quartet. It's hard to determine which set is preferable; but I'm happy to have, and wouldn't be without, both sets. If I did have to choose however, I would probably have to choose the Aeolian set.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Of its time.,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)I'm new to this set. It's certainly a bargain at this price. Unmissable?
First - the 70s Decca sound dates. The treble becomes irritating above mf, and glassily worse above the stave. The cello is beautifully played, but the focus (in these of all quartets) is on the leader, rather than the blend of the ensemble. Hans Keller, when producing a broadcast, used to sit the engineer in the quartet as close as possible to the viola and ask him to aim for what he could hear there. But Decca had been thirled to brilliance since its ffrr recordings of the late 1940s ( including the Griller Quartet who were indeed astonishing) and so the house style prevails. As usual, it doesn't survive digitisation very well. Secondly, there's an absence of real ease and freedom about the playing. It's in tune and together and the players are listening to each other, but when Haydn gives the players an opportunity - as (there are countless other examples) in the scherzo of Op 33.5 with its pauses before resolutions, they decline it. That may have been the spirit of the times, of course, - there was a horror of anything that could be stigmatized as personal expression. But these are marvellous pieces and they are not written about nothing in particular. Sometimes the music takes over, and a slow movement reminds you that the 70s was one of the great ages of singing, though even then the cantabile is restrained. The obverse can be a variation movement taken at a plodding, literal tempo, with every obvious point overplayed. Very skilled and highly respected professionals doing a very professional job, certainly. But too often, nothing more. The best way to listen to this set is one quartet at a time. A whole CD is indigestibly homogeneous. So, with reluctance, since this is certainly one of the great Decca monuments, only a limited number of stars. Perhaps the whole idea of a complete, integral, recording of the Haydn Quartets had, even in the 1970s, become more marketing device than musical enterprise. Two previous ones had aborted - the Pro Arte and the Schneider - before this. (The Pro Arte worked at the rate of three or four quartets a year, from memory, After writing this, and posting it, I returned to the Pro Arte and compared notes. Despite what I still think is an over-bright digitalisation on Testament, they respond to each quartet's individuality. Even though some of their tempi are more demanding than those of the Aeolian, in the mature quartets they are not rushed. They know what they are doing and are not afraid to take risks. The expressive range of, say, their Opus 64 no 6 is far wider (try the minuet, alone, and then the first moovement) and yet much more focussed. At their best, they are in a different league). The Lindsays are always worth exploring in this music, if modern instruments and modern recording are what you prefer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real bargain,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)Ok these are not the newest recordings but the playing is very fine and at this price (just over £1 per CD) you can't go wrong. If you don't know this music then this is a very cheap way of exploring it (and it is full of treasures) and even if you know it and love it and have other versions why not get this to have an alternative view.
A very easy recommendation.
2.0 out of 5 stars Sound quality below par,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)I cannot comment on the relative merits of the Aeolian Quartet's performances compared to those of other ensembles, except to say that I find them to be clear and generally pleasant on the ear. However, when the music rises above a certain volume, there are a number of unpleasant (and abrupt) distortions audible in the recordings (Disc 4 for example contains several, starting with the Cmaj Minuet on track 2). I do not know if these are flaws in the original recording or artefacts introduced during the remastering process (I suspect the latter). For this reason I cannot recommend the set.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Papa Haydn,but who's the Daddy?,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Audio CD)Well,the answer to that question comes down to a comparison of a handful of complete sets of the quartets,most notably those of the Angeles and this,the Aeolian.If the Angeles are excellent,so too are these,in classic Decca recordings(surely the recording standard all classical labels should aspire to?),maybe not the concert experience of the Philips set,but,for me,a far more rewarding listening experience:after all,recordings allow you to hear what you don't always hear at a concert,and this Decca set certainly gives a clarity missing from the more "natural"viewpoint,something I much prefer.No audible edits,either,and that cannot be said for the Angeles...two further points, this gives the quartet version of the seven last words,the other does not,and finally,PRICE.This is a fabulous bargain,at approx.£1.22 per cd...anyone interested in this music should not hesitate,it is,from cost alone,self recommending,let alone being as good as any set of these quartets on the market.Excellent purchase.
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