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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.


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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.
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My favorite box of Beethoven Quartets is the Quartetto Italiano on Philips: Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
I also have a soft spot for the Budapest Quartet on Sony: Beethoven: String Quartets (I'm old)
Not to mention the Busch Quartet (really old)

Endellion is advertised as the first ever COMPLETE recording of Beethoven's String Quartets, Quintets and Fragments - A bold claim.
Blame it on my O.C.D, but I actually NEED to own everything Beethoven wrote. So I was looking forward to this.
Imagine my disappointment when it arrived and three works were missing.
Seventeen String Quartets and Four String Quintets were published during Beethoven's lifetime.
They have Opus numbers. That part should be easy, but the String Quintet in C Minor, Opus 104 is missing.

Opus 104, published in 1817, is an arrangement of Beethoven's Piano Trio Op.1, No.3
Herr Kaufmann (first name unknown) arranged it as a quintet, then showed the work to Beethoven, who made further changes of his own.
Beethoven presented the Quintet, Op.104 to the publisher Artaria as his own work, and accepted payment for it, which qualifies it as a genuine Beethoven String Quintet.
The chain of possession was Beethoven - Kaufmann - Beethoven.
Its omission from the Endellion "Complete" collection is inexcusable.

Since 1957, we have also known of the existence of seven unpublished String Quartets and one unpublished String Quintet.
In that year, Willy Hess published his catalog of unpublished Beethoven. *
Hess Catalog #H30-H36 are Quartets. H40 is a Quintet:

H30 Prelude & Fugue in F (1795)
H31 Prelude & Fugue in C (1795)
H32 First version of String Quartet in F, Op.18, No.1 (1799)
H33 Minuet in A flat (1792)
H34 String Quartet in F - arranged from the Piano Sonata Op.14, No.1 (1802)
H35 Fragmentary arrangement of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, No. 24 (1817)
H36 Arrangement of the overture to Handel's Oratorio "Solomon" (1798)
H40 Prelude & Fugue for String Quintet in D minor - fragment (1817)

The scores of these works have been published for over fifty years. There is no excuse for omitting them from a COMPLETE String Quartet, Quintet and Fragments collection.
Endellion omits H35 and H36, in addition to the Quintet, Op.104.

The Endellion box is actually the third attempt to bring us the "complete" Beethoven String Quartets, Quintets and Fragments.
The first attempt was the Deutsche Gramophon Beethoven Edition (vol.11-14), issued on CD in 1997.
The second was the 85CD Brilliant Classics Beethoven Edition, issued in 2007.
Annoyingly, none of these collections were complete.
DG's Beethoven Edition omitted the Quartet H35 and the Quintets Op.4, Op.104 and H40. Brilliant Classics omitted Quartets H32, H35 and H36.

It is possible to assemble a "complete" collection of String Quartets and Quintets, but you will have to buy additional CDs. This will involve some duplication of material.
If you bought the Endellion box, you need to buy three additional CDs:

[hint: for ease of navigation, read the review though to the end, then come back and click on the links.]

- H35 has been recorded only once, by the Covington Quartet on Monument Records: Beethoven: The Forgotten Works for String Quartet
This involves very little duplication: The CD is filled out by an hour's worth of fragments from Beethoven's sketchbook, which only came to light after Hess's catalog was published.
Fascinating material.
Two of these fragments are included in the Endellion box: an Allegretto in B Minor (38 seconds) and a Prelude in D Minor (39 seconds).

- H36 has been recorded three times, by the Ysaye Quartet: Beethoven: String Quintet - or - String Quintet/Rare Works
or the Hagen Quartet in the DG box (vol.11) Complete Beethoven Edition, Vol. 11: Early String Quartets
- or - The Quartetto Paolo Borciani: Frühe Streichquartette

- For Op.104, you might try the Fine Arts Quartet (+ one) on Naxos: String Quintets Op. 29 & Op. 1 - This quintet has been recorded several times; this is the least expensive way to get it.

Only then will you be the proud owner of all 24 String Quartets and 5 String Quintets by Ludwig van Beethoven.**
This confusion could all be avoided if some enterprising String Quartet or recording company would just issue a CD of Beethoven's String Quartets H30-H36 and the String Quintet H40.
The Quartetto Paolo Borciani came closest: they recorded H30-35, but forgot H36 and H40 - copy and paste in the Amazon Search Bar:
ASIN: B000024MXS

The Endellion box is a production of Cambridge University.
If Cambridge University had published The Complete Sonnets of Shakespeare and left out three, it would have been a major scandal.
Beethoven deserves the same consideration.
This would never have happened at Oxford.

* For more information about the Hess catalog, as well as the Kinsky catalog (WoO) and the Biamonti catalog, go to
Click on the American Flag (if you speak American), then click "music".

** The Endellion Quartet is actually the easiest and cheapest way to do it.
The DG Beethoven Edition is out-of-print, and the Brilliant Classics box is big and messy.

- If you bought the Brilliant Classics 85CD box, you need Beethoven: The Forgotten Works for String Quartet for H35, plus either Complete Beethoven Edition, Vol. 11: Early String Quartets for H32 and H36 or the Endellion box for H32 and the Ysaye Quartet for H36 (this is the most expensive of your three options).

- If you bought the DG box (vol.11-14), you need ASIN:B000QUZDT2 "Beethoven: The Forgotten Works for String Quartet" (see the link in the previous paragraph) for H35, plus either the Endellion box or the Brilliant Classics box for H40 and Op.4, plus the Fine Arts Op. 104 on Naxos (also pretty expensive).
44 comments| 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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'
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on 21 March 2016
great quartet playing
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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 ...
33 comments| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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