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.
on 11 February 2015
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 !!!
on 9 May 2016
At about £1 per disc this is an outstanding bargain. The Tokyo Quartet play these works with character, colour, finesse and passion. I listened to the set largely over a week's car commute, but I will return to the pieces later without the background noise of the car and M27. Their style is adjusted to the nature of the pieces, so from a more direct delivery of the earlier Opus 18 (themselves masterpieces by any reckoning), to power when needed in the middle quartets, to more veiled utterances when appropriate in the later quartets. The recorded ambiance is just about perfect, the beautiful bloom that these players produce rendered very well.
on 20 September 2015
Lives up to your reviewer's estimate and what a bargain! IT is all the more welcome if one is buying the compact discs (as I was) to go alongside much-treasured complete cycles.
I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to recommend the set for those who are looking for just one complete cycle - perhaps not; but at this price, I think one could afford to replace it, if one decided one wanted more penetrating performances.
on 28 September 2013
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.