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Customer Review

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating playing that speaks directly and without exaggeration, 30 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Beethoven Complete String Quartets,Quintets and fragments (Audio CD)
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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Review Details



I. Giles

Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 9