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Customer Review

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, homogenous and unfailingly musical, 24 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Tokyo String Quartet play Beethoven (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.
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Showing 1-10 of 27 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jan 2013 17:02:36 GMT
msCX says:
Excellent review. It is a real bonus of Amazon that from time to time you can come across such erudite and intelligent and fair-minded reviews such as yours!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jan 2013 17:25:34 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
I am honoured by your comment - many thanks.

Posted on 21 Jan 2013 17:00:03 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 21 Jan 2013 20:11:43 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2013 17:33:46 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Feb 2013 10:23:39 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Don, I mean nothing derogatory by the term "starter set"; I simply mean that it's so good and affordable anyone wanting an introduction to this wonderful music need not hesitate. You obviously assume that by "cheap" I mean "inferior" but clearly that is not the case with these Sony bargain repackagings. As for the sniffing, it's crystal clear to me and I'm not making it up so maybe you need either to get better equipment or your ears checked. As the SFL recently remarked, the problem with sound reproduction today is that you can pay a fortune - not that I have - for the privilege of having every flaw in a recording accentuated. The Lyndsays have the same irritating habit, bearable in live performances but irksome in repeated listening.

I find it amusing that first I get such a nice compliment from msCX only to have it immediately followed up by your grouchy observation. Ah well; that's Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2013 17:53:50 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 21 Jan 2013 20:11:57 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2013 19:51:45 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
I am irritated because instead of engaging constructively with either the contents of my review or the music itself you have made a point of posting two pointless "points" (too many points, perhaps?): the first is wilfully to misconstrue or represent my observation that this makes a good "starter" set when in context of all I say it's perfectly clear that I like the performances very much and secondly the sniffing is perfectly audible throughout the discs - but to humour you and so you cannot accuse me of hallucinating, turn to disc 8 and play at fair volume the sublime Cavatina of Op.130. You will hear a slight sniff at 5 seconds, then louder ones at: 8, 11, 15, 21, 27, 30, 31, 36 and 40 seconds - need I go on? It usually precedes the down beat and is an unfortunate mannerism of the lead violinist to help him "breathe" the phrasing beautifully. Had you something more substantive or pleasant to say I might be less grouchy myself. Neither issue is a question of "agreement" just fact.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2013 21:34:50 GMT
msCX says:
I am intrigued by this exchange and will listen out for these "sniffs" when my copy of the recording arrives :) I am entirely impartial in this exchange but it seems to me that what Ralph Moore has said is simply that these are very good recordings, worth either starting with (as, by definition, your only recording) or adding to your existing recordings BUT please be aware that there is, at least in Ralph's ears, an irritating "sniffing" sound that is recorded from the lead violinist. This irritation may not be so obvious to other ears but since Ralph did describe it as a "minor reservation", it hasn't stopped me buying the recording (on an attractive offer about to end at MDT). I remain grateful for the original review but also for the exchange of views that something worth reading and responding to, generates!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2013 21:39:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jan 2013 21:40:02 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Thanks, msCX. My interlocutor seems to have thought better of it and retired having deleted his comments but the remains of the exchange help to clarify the facts. So much fuss over nasal exhalations!

Posted on 30 Jan 2013 20:45:45 GMT
Dear Ralph, just when do you get the time to 1) listen to all this music, 2) write such great reviews here and on MusicWeb, and 3) I can only assume that your house is full of CDs (or are you a "ripper", whatever that is!)?

Thanks, as always, Mark

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jan 2013 21:09:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Feb 2013 10:28:54 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Thanks, Mark. I do indeed own far too many CDs and they have started to occupy strange corners where they congregate, mate and proliferate. I get sent a good few review copies from MusicWeb and buy judiciously as while I am not poor I don't usually pay full price for much. Friends and I do swap copies of mostly unobtainable CDs for personal listening as I don't like downloads and don't want to be an illegal "ripper" and become part of a behaviour which stifles the already endangered classical music recording industry.

Like many men, I need a benign obsession to keep me out of trouble and I like the way reviewing combines a moderate literary facility with my love of music. I have been listening for many years now and it is my main hobby; many readers are appreciative and, like you, kind enough to expresss that appreciation for my efforts; in so doing I have made some true friends via Amazon and learned a great deal from other experienced listeners.
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Location: Bishop's Stortford, UK

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