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on 3 July 2017
Enjoyed by my husband.
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on 21 May 2017
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Beethoven was close to his death aged 56 when he composed these late, sublime masterpieces. That he was able to do so is enough cause for dancing in the streets, that we have recordings of this calibre is further cause for celebration.
This set really has grown on me. At first I found it a little 'dry', perhaps even lacking in the requisite emotion. What was I thinking! Now I love its refusal to wear its heart on its sleeve, while honouring Beethoven's often pained, always unpredictable emotional odyssey ~ one made much the more poignant by the knowledge of what must have been a deafness so unbearable to such a man, with all this to say without being able to hear it properly. {Beethoven's late works are generally an astounding achievement; just think of his last, incredible piano sonata, for example.}
The Takacs play these works, in this beautifully warm recording, with close attention to every detail, and with repeated hearings I have grown to admire and cherish their commitment and the care with which they play these still awe-inspiring quartets. At times, if one didn't know who the composer was, one could easily believe the music was by Bartok, say, or Prokofiev, such is their audacity and their timelessness.
With an excellent booklet, this is surely one of the supreme recordings of these uniquely moving works. Other reviewers have remarked adversely on the wheezings and sniffings of the players, but I can honestly say that, on the rare occasions I noticed them, they haven't bothered me ~ not half as much as the average audience's wheezings, splutterings and sneezes, by which most live recordings are spoilt, if not ruined.

As they say, buy with confidence.
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on 14 March 2017
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2009
The musical equivalent of Rembrandt's mature series of self-portraits, Beethoven's late quartets are multi-faceted, soul-searching, enriching and unsurpassed. Taken together they, like the paintings, seem to comment on the human condition like few others. No collection should be without them.

I agree with an earlier reviewer that there's too much vibrato here. Edward Dusinberre seems especially guilty of this excess. But I would still value these recordings on the grounds that first, they offer many qualities that compensate. The playing of Takács is very often subtle and thoughtful. To take just one example, Dusinberre's phrasing in Op130.iv and the variety of effects he produces in this same danza tedesca are considerable and you understand why a Gramophone reviewer said that it seems as though there's no other way the music should go. Second, of course, the music itself is absolutely sublime. If, like mine, your ideal recording of these peerless works would feature minimum-vibrato, you're likely to have to wait a very long time - too long for music of such beauty and monumental importance.

Interestingly, Takács perform Opus 130 with its original finale, Große Fuge (now designated as Op 133), followed by the alternative urged by his publisher - shorter, lighter and slighter. Also included in the set is the Opus 95 Quartet in f.

These last works by Beethoven are highly individual, bordering on the eccentric and veering from pathos and troubled introspection to throw-away flippancy and whimsy in an instant. Takács are at least able to suggest these qualities as well as their transcendent greatness.
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on 28 May 2016
I've been listening to the late quartets for around 45 years now and this is the third interpretation I've bought (after the Hungarian and the Lindsays). It's undoubtedly my favourite and I'm listening to the quartets and hearing new things in them as if for the first time. The recording quality is superb, with every instrument clearly delineated and none of the distracting background noise that mars the Lindsays' recordings.

Furthermore, if you also buy Edward Dusinberre's "Beethoven for a Later Age", then you get an in-depth insight into how the quartet work together and how they arrived at their interpretation of many passages and movements. You'll also learn a great deal about the background to Beethoven's composition of these and the other quartets. Dusinberre is the quartet's 1st violinist and his book is the longest and best set of sleeve notes you'll ever come across!
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on 7 December 2014
Transcendent. Elemental. Sublime. If not entirely flawless these are extraordinary recordings of some of the most spiritually moving chamber works ever written. The Takács Quartet do Beethoven a tremendous honour with some splendid playing that captures the heart of these very difficult pieces. The Cavatina is particularly moving and worth sampling if you are tempted (as you should be!) by this set. Contains interesting notes on the music.
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on 24 May 2006
This is probably the best of the relatively recent recent recordings of the late quartets. The playing is sensitive, expressive and robust, and the sound quality is crystal clear. However, I have a couple of reservations. Personally, I find the excessive vibrato distracting (and I don't suppose Beethoven would have approved either). A little vibrato is fine for occasional emphasis, but this is too much, too often. (On the other hand, many other performances are as bad if not worse.) The other problem is the recording: there is a harshness to the sound that I find tiring. I'm sure this will vary with the equipment it is played on, but on my system it sounds "digital". Some people seem to like this.

The Beethoven late quartets are wonderful music that will repay much repeated listening over many years, so there is no harm in having more than one recording. There's no obvious "best" set. Personally, I have enjoyed the Italian Quartet, now beautifully remastered by Philips (perhaps a bit too warm and lyrical), and also the Alban Berg Quartet's second set (live in Vienna, with virtually no coughing!). The ones to avoid are the Juilliard (a quirky performance in front of a live audience who keep dropping things) and the Lindsays (loved by the critics, but ruined for me by the continuous heavy breathing and sniffing, and again too much vibrato).
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on 18 December 2014
I've been listening again and again to the C sharp minor. I think I can understand why it's the piece of music that Schubert wanted to hear before he died. Haven't actually heard any other recordings so I can't make a comparison but I get a good feeling about these.
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on 27 October 2010
This set presents the whole of the late quartets together with excellent notes. These are not easy pieces, but the difficulty is in the range of emotions. To capture that the Takacs Quartet use the full dynamic range and this recording respects that, so that there are places where you really have to strain to hear the notes coming back. The late quartets need to be listened to with care but it really is worth taking the trouble.
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