This is a very complete set indeed. It includes all the quartets in the latest edition prepared by Jonathan Del Mar which restores many important markings by Beethoven and which has been done in collaboration with the Endellion Quartet. Both versions of the first quartet or included as well as Beethoven's quartet arrangement of the piano sonata Op. 14 no. 1. the Gross Fuge, both string quintets plus other works for string quartet including the two prelude and fugues.
In Beethoven's quartets there are plenty of moments of technical pressure which can so easily lead to lapses in intonation. This is a crucial consideration as poor tuning in stringed instruments can be an excruciating experience whatever the virtues of the attempted interpretation. Many reputable quartets in the past have faltered in matters of tuning and this seriously compromises musical satisfaction. More recent quartets seem to have solved this important matter and this no doubt reflects more rigorous technical training at colleges etc.
Now we have this set by the Endellions and they pass all such judgements with considerable ease. Generally they take a brisk view of these works and make the most of the dynamic markings and tempi changes. As a result all the performances have a strong element of spontaneity and energetic 'life' about them that is most engaging. They remind me of remarks made in the Gramophone years ago about Wilhelm Kempff's piano sonatas (either set-mono or stereo) which seem to allow Beethoven to speak directly to the listener without an interpreter getting in the way. This is how these quartets seem to communicate too.
I have listened to these performances a number of times and at no point have I regretted limiting myself to just this one set of performances having passed on previous sets to various friends. They are all very well recorded with bright, clear and forward sound and also advantageously priced.
I would suggest that these would warrant serious consideration on any short-list of an 'only' buy as well as being a really worthwhile alternative second purchase to consider.
My separate review of the quintet disc is pasted below for further reference:
These quintets are far more rarely performed than the string quartets. Nevertheless they remain an enjoyable experience and are well worth collecting. This disc completes the box set of the quartets and continues the very high standards of those quartet performances. This disc is available separately as here.
The opus 4 quintet is really an arrangement of Beethoven's wind octet. That octet, although and early work, is listed as opus 103 and it in the octet version that most purchasers will recognise the work. This quintet version is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right and I would suggest that owning each is both interesting and satisfying. The opus 29 quintet is not an arrangement and is sometimes available on disc but without the opus 4. The fragments are really fragments and are interesting only for the sake of completeness.
The performances here have all the same qualities of the quartet discs. Speeds are generally lively without being extreme. Accents are fully observed and this underlines the energy of the performances. There is a pervading sense of enthusiasm and the intonation is spot-on.
The recording quality is faithful and well-balanced.
I would suggest that this excellent disc should be on the short-list of anyone interested in the program. Even better, I would suggest that the whole box set of the complete quartets and quintets is an even tastier proposition.
A note to the anonymous negative voter:
The voting system is specifically only about reviews being 'helpful' or 'unhelpful'
Goodness only knows what you find to be `unhelpful' about this review.
A negative vote without reason is not helpful to anyone. It does not contribute in any useful way to discussion so no-one can learn from you.
If you have a different view or find the review 'unhelpful' then explain, giving your reasons, and share your views in the comment option as intended.
Your opinion might then add to the total useful advice.
on 29 July 2010
I haven't had the chance to listen carefully to all performances in this set yet, but at Amazon's electronic behest I thought I'd jot down some initial impressions for the sake of others thinking of perhaps investing in it. First point, the set is excellent value for money. Secondly, the sound is on a par with any modern sets, very lifelike, with enough reverberation to prevent either the excessive in-your-face shrillness of some recordings, and the cathedral-like haze swamping others. As to the performances, I can say that intonation is spot-on, no player is noticeably stronger or weaker than the others, the sounds blend nicely yet each instrument can be followed without difficulty. Dynamics range from the most delicate of pianissimos to the heartiest of fortissimos, with everything in between. Perhaps the most appealing factor for myself, though, is the avoidance of the excessive vibrato which has made other sets unlistenable for me. As good as the Alban Berg set is, for example, in so many ways, the vibrato became a distraction for me, and audio samples of other sets seems to present the same characteristics. In this set, vibrato is indeed used, but seems much more judiciously applied than in any other set I sampled (among which Takacs, Lindsays, Borodin, Alexander, Emerson and others), allowing me to focus more on the music, which is of course among the greatest ever composed for this configuration of instruments. Heartily recommended.
on 5 June 2014
Whilst this may be an outstanding cycle of Beethoven's Complete Quartets, buyer beware. If the set was made in the EU chances are it will incorporate copy protection. That means you can only play them on a CD player which only has the capacity to search for the CD Redbook Layer. With desktop and notebook computers, the CD will either not be recognized or play with extreme static. This is because computer drives search for other functions apart from the Redbook Layer, thereby activating the copy protection software built into the CD. There is no mention of this anywhere on the packaging, so if you have a good sound system with a stand alone CD player you will be fine, otherwise your, as they say 'up that creek without a paddle'
on 12 October 2010
La tecnica di registrazione è molto classica (sembra di sentire un CD, ma molto buono, registrato qualche anno fa. Non ci sono "artifizi" evidenti, ma il suono è curato e pulito, senza "evidenziazioni" che al sottoscritto, a volte, danno pure fastidio).
Mal che vada, alcuni pezzi sono nella "media", ma altri sono ottimamente eseguiti (d'altra parte nessuno, e dico nessuno, è perfetto).
Insomma, per me un buon box di CD che io ascolto mooolto volentieri ...