Author Topic: Beethoven's String Quartets  (Read 120520 times)

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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #861 on: December 02, 2017, 07:40:58 PM »
I stumbled upon another cycle today: The Shanghai Quartet on Camerata.  Discography here.

I have the CD with Op. 59/2 and 3--I recognize the cover. It's probably a decade since I last listened to it, but I remember nothing distinctive about it, either yea nor nay. I didn't realize they did a full cycle.

If I can figure out which box it's packed up in, I'll give it a fresh listen and report back.

Offline Josquin13

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #862 on: December 02, 2017, 11:18:39 PM »
Here's my personal list of favorite recordings:

Among Beethoven String Quartet recordings & cycles made during the analog and digital eras (non-historical), here's what I've liked most, with the modern and period recordings grouped separately (& with an asterisk* placed next to my special favorites):

I. Early String Quartets--Op. 18, 1-6

*Gewandhaus Quartett--1-6
*Takács Quartet--1-6, fortunately, Decca has newly remastered the set, but I haven't heard it yet.
Alban Berg Quartett--1-6, *1st EMI studio recording--if EMI ever bothers to remaster it. I was slightly less keen on their live Op. 18 set in Vienna.
Parkanyi Quartet--Op. 18/no. 4 (formerly the Orlando Quartet)

(I'd like to hear the recent Op. 18 set from the Jerusalem Quartet, whose Haydn I've enjoyed.)

*Schuppanzigh Quartett (period)--Op. 18/4--in my opinion, this is one of the finest string quartets today, period or otherwise (along with the Chiaroscuro SQ.):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCPXTQG3qts



Quatour Mosaďques (period set)
Quatour Turner (period set):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWika3H7efY

II. Middle Quartets--Rasumovsky Quartets Op. 59 nos. 1-3, Op. 74 "Harp", and Op. 95

*Smetana Quartet--Denon cycle.
*Gewandhaus Quartett
*Takács Quartet
*Parkanyi Quartet--Op. 95
Melos Quartett
Talich Quartet
Alban Berg Quartett (both their 1st studio recording--if EMI ever bothers to remaster it, and their live EMI recordings in Vienna.)
Borodin Quartet--who offer an older, more romantic style of playing.
Lindsay Quartet--I've liked the spirit of the Lindsay's 1st & 2nd recordings of the Op. 74 "Harp" quartet (though their intonation isn't always secure).

*Schuppanzigh Quartett--Op. 59/No.3 (period)--another remarkable performance from this brilliant quartet:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMO6sceJlLM

*Chiaroscuro Quartet--Op. 95
Quatour Turner--Opp. 59 1-3, Op. 74 "Harp" (period)
Kuijken Quartet--Opp. 59 1-3 (period--EDIT: I've been corrected--see below, as the Kuijkens play on modern instruments, but offer decidedly HIP interpretations.)

III. Late Quartets--Opp. 127, 130, 131, 132, Grosse Fuge 133, 135

*Smetana Quartet--Denon Cycle--these are very special.
*Takács Quartet--newly remastered.
*Gewandhaus Quartett--for their clarity and refined ensemble, as in the Grosse fuge, etc.  The Gewandhaus Quartett claims to play in a tradition passed down from Beethoven's time, when a much older incarnation of the group premiered his quartets.
Alban Berg Quartett--two sets: 1st studio EMI set--digital, and *2nd EMI set live from Vienna)
*Quartetto Italiano--for their beautiful adagios.
*Suske Quartett--more of the older Gewandhaus tradition.
Fitzwilliam Quartet--Opp. 130, 132, 133 (on the Australian Eloquence label)
Talich Quartet
Smetana Quartet--1960s cycle, on Supraphon Archiv.  This is a very good set, but I prefer the Smetana's later Denon recordings.
Melos Quartett

Other than the Eroica Quartet in Op. 135 (which I don't recommend), there aren't many other period groups that have recorded Beethoven's late quartets.  Though the Quatour Mosaďques latest set will be arriving in the mail soon.  There's also a very fine recording of Opp. 130 & 133 on period instruments from the Edding Quartet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRbQPilcIos



And, a Op. 132 from Quatour Terpsychordes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81d0ACnc8oE

Next up for me is the Tokyo Quartet's 1st RCA/Sony 'super bargain' cycle (it's a new arrival).  So far, I've liked the brilliant playing their 1st violinist, who tends to stand out.

A new cycle of interest: Earlier this year, I heard the Elias Quartet play a Beethoven SQ live in concert, and was very impressed, especially with their 1st violinist, Sarah Bitloch, who has a real affinity for Beethoven's music. (For me, the 1st violinist is crucial in Beethoven's SQs.)  The Elias Quartet has recorded the whole cycle live at Wigmore Hall, and they're gradually releasing their set in individual volumes on the Wigmore live label.  (I'm also keeping an eye on the Merel String Quartet, who Alfred Brendel has spoken highly of, and whose Mozart I thought was first rate.  Their Beethoven can be heard on YT.)









« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 10:35:50 AM by Josquin13 »

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #863 on: December 02, 2017, 11:30:47 PM »
Quote
(I'd like to hear the recent Op. 18 set from the Jerusalem Quartet, whose
Haydn I've enjoyed.)

They have my favorite recording of the Op. 18.
A woman voice glides like the wind
Of black, of damp, of night
And all it touches in this flight
Suddenly is over.

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Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #864 on: December 03, 2017, 12:36:54 AM »
The Kuijken Quartet's middle quartets are played on modern instruments, for....... some reason. Which is always somewhat frustrating lol. The Turner Quartet also only recorded one of the Razoumovskys (no.3).

In terms of choices:
Op. 18 - Turner Quartet, Juilliard Quartet [1964-70], Budapest Quartet [1951-2], Terpsycordes (18/6), Smetana on BBC Legends (18/1)
Op. 59 - Juilliard Quartet [1964-70], Smetana on Denon (59/1 and 59/2), Guarneri on RCA (59/3), Hagen Quartet (59/1 and 59/2)
Op. 74 - Turner Quartet, Végh Quartet [1974], Leipzig Quartet
Op. 95 - Hagen Quartet, Chiaroscuro Quartet, Emerson Quartet [1988]
Op. 127 - Smetana Quartet [Denon], Hungarian Quartet [1950s]
Op. 132 - Belcea Quartet, Terpsycordes Quartet, Hagen Quartet, Busch Quartet [Warner]
Op. 130/133 - Hagen Quartet
Op. 130 [with substitute finale] - Busch Quartet [Arbiter], Takács Quartet
Op. 131 - Brooklyn Rider, Busch Quartet [Warner]
Op. 135 - Leipzig Quartet, Petersen Quartet, Zehetmair Quartet

Also current list of cycles I have in my possession and/or plan to listen to imminently, asterisks are those I haven't listened to before:

Budapest Quartet '51
Budapest Quartet '60s *
Alban Berg studio [op. 18, 59, 74, 95 *]
Alban Berg live *
Takács [op. 59, 74, 95 *]
Emerson
Hungarian '50s
Hungarian '60s *
Cleveland Telarc
Leipzig
Lindsay ASV *
Végh 1974
Pražák *
Hollywood late quartets *
Hagen partial cycle (op. 18/2, 18/6, 59/3 and 74 missing) [op. 18/4, 131 *]
Petersen partial cycle (op. 59, 74 & 95 missing)
Jerusalem op. 18 *
Brentano late quartets *
Mosaďques late quartets
Vermeer *
Artemis *

(not in order but I am currently in the midst of comparing the two Budapest cycles at the top of the list)

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #865 on: December 03, 2017, 04:07:02 AM »
Op. 131 - Brooklyn Rider

WTF is that?



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Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #866 on: December 03, 2017, 04:09:53 AM »

Offline Josquin13

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #867 on: December 03, 2017, 10:01:38 AM »
amw writes, "The Kuijken Quartet's middle quartets are played on modern instruments, for....... some reason"

I'm listening to their recording right now. Goodness, you're right.  My mistake.  I can see why I assumed otherwise (other than that the Kuijkens always play on period instruments), as they're performing as if they're playing period instruments (by using minimal vibrato, shorter phrases, etc.).  Indeed, the smaller scale of their approach & more intimate projection sounds decidedly HIP, but you're right, they're definitely playing modern instruments.  Got fooled again.  It's very fine playing though, nevertheless.

To add to my post above, here are the sets & recordings that I've not heard on modern instruments: those by the Cleveland, Auryn, Artis, Leipzig (mostly), Elias, Belcea (whose Schubert I didn't care for), Alexander 1 & 2, Cypress, Ysaye, Hungarian, Vlach, Peterson, Vermeer, Orford, Amadeus, Henschel, VOCES, Taneyev, Colorado, Sine Nomine, Kodaly, Medici, Yale, Fine Arts, Brodsky, Zehetmair, & Artemis Quartets (though I'd like to see the Artemis Quartet record a 2nd cycle with their wonderful new 1st violinist, Vineta Sareika--formerly of Trio Dali).  I also wish the Chilingirian Quartet had recorded some of Beethoven's quartets before they called it quits, as I've enjoyed their Mozart, Haydn, & Schubert over the years.

And, I'm still a little on the fence or undecided about the 'in progress' cycle from the Hagen Quartett (started on DG and now on Myrios), and (likewise) probably need to listen to the Emersons again, as it's been a long time.

As for the rest (be warned, these are just my opinions!), I disliked what I've heard of the Guarneri Quartet's RCA and Phillips cycles (finding them slick--with technically proficient but overly facile phrasing, at times), Juilliard Quartet (I can't be the only one that hears intonation problems with this group, can I?), Budapest Quartet (it's been decades since I've heard them, but I remember a composer friend once warned me that their Beethoven can sound like they're playing on out of tune instruments, despite whatever insights they offer), the Lindsay Quartet (except for their Op. 74--I can like the Lindsey's spirit at times, but it gets interrupted by their lapses in intonation, which seems to cause disagreements... ?), Vegh Quartet (I can find their playing kind of rough, in a earthy way--and occasionally lacking in ensemble?, but realize that others think they get to the very heart and soul of the matter.  As for myself, I tend to prefer more refinement).  I also didn't overly care for the one disc I bought by Quartetto di Cremona (finding their playing exaggerated, and their slow movements not beautiful enough), or recordings by the Endellion Quartet (I disliked their Op. 132--which I tend to use as a measuring stick, & that was enough for me), La Salle Quartet (I find their somewhat cool, smoothly detached style very ill-suited to the late quartets, though others seem to like them), and Prazak Quartet (a good Czech group, but for some reason, in Beethoven, they have a tendency to over stress or bring too much emphasis to the accents, which can make the music sound overly exaggerated at times; it can also cause their playing to become a little rough occasionally).

Finally, one more quartet that I've got my eye on is the Ebene Quartet, whose late Beethoven on You Tube has impressed me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB556rRO0AE

I've also heard good things about the Artis Quartett (whose Magnard SQ recording was very good.)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 11:25:04 AM by Josquin13 »

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #868 on: December 03, 2017, 10:13:19 AM »
Quote
I disliked what I've heard of the Guarneri Quartet's RCA and Phillips cycles (finding them slick, or what is the opposite of un-insightful, technically proficient but overly facile phrasing?)

I dont have the recordings but I attended a serie of their concerts where they did the entire cycle live in the 80s.  This was perhaps my strongest personnal concert experience in term of emotions going through to an audience.  I looked for their recordings on CDs at the time but could not find them so I got the ABsq instead.  I probably should get the recordings as a souvenir of memorable concerts (and period of my life)
A woman voice glides like the wind
Of black, of damp, of night
And all it touches in this flight
Suddenly is over.

Anna Akhomatova

Offline Josquin13

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #869 on: December 03, 2017, 10:29:05 AM »
Mandryka--It should arrive in the mail any day now, so we'll find out.  Though I didn't feel that way about their early Op. 18 quartets. 

I don't really see the LaSalle Quartet's Late Quartets as in a HIP vein, do you?  I recall that you liked them.  I've liked them too (in Schoenberg, Webern & other 20th century composers), but not so much in late Beethoven.  (But I'll try to listen to them again, as I've only heard the set once.)

Spineur--You may be interested to know that you can buy the whole OOP Guarneri Phillips cycle in a box set released by the Universal Eloquence label (though it can be hard to find now, so you may have to go to Amazon.de).  The AMSI remasters are exceptional--which made me even more disappointed that I didn't care for their playing; however, you may like them more than I did, as they certainly have a following:

https://www.amazon.de/Beethoven-Streichquartette-Eloquence-Guarneri-Quartet/dp/B001SWNTVQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512325559&sr=8-2&keywords=guarneri+beethoven



« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 11:10:50 AM by Que »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #870 on: December 03, 2017, 10:51:26 AM »
Mandryka--It should arrive in the mail any day now, so we'll find out.  Though I didn't feel that way about their early Op. 18 quartets. 

I don't really see the LaSalle Quartet's Late Quartets as in a HIP vein, do you?  I recall that you liked them.  I've liked them too (in Schoenberg, Webern & other 20th century composers), but not so much in late Beethoven.  (But I'll try to listen to them again, as I've only heard the set once.)

Spineur--You may be interested to know that you can buy the whole OOP Guarneri Phillips cycle in a box set released by the Universal Eloquence label (though it can be hard to find now, so you may have to go to Amazon.de).  The AMSI remasters are exceptional--which made me even more disappointed that I didn't care for their playing; however, you may like them more than I did, as they certainly have a following:

https://www.amazon.de/Beethoven-Streichquartette-Eloquence-Guarneri-Quartet/dp/B001SWNTVQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512325559&sr=8-2&keywords=guarneri+beethoven



I deleted that post because I may be being unfair, one thing I've learned over the years is that sometimes performances which don't make a big impact through obvious in your face expressive interventions turn out to be the most rewarding for repeated listening.

Re LaSalle, what caught my attention was a live op 132 with an exceptionally fast slow movement, faster than their commercial release. I can't remember about any other Beethoven recording by them.

« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 11:11:29 AM by Que »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #871 on: December 03, 2017, 10:56:05 AM »


Hahaha! I just listened to the fugue.
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Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #872 on: December 04, 2017, 05:46:42 AM »
amw writes, "The Kuijken Quartet's middle quartets are played on modern instruments, for....... some reason"

I'm listening to their recording right now. Goodness, you're right.  My mistake.  I can see why I assumed otherwise (other than that the Kuijkens always play on period instruments), as they're performing as if they're playing period instruments (by using minimal vibrato, shorter phrases, etc.).  Indeed, the smaller scale of their approach & more intimate projection sounds decidedly HIP, but you're right, they're definitely playing modern instruments.  Got fooled again.  It's very fine playing though, nevertheless.
Agree. I haven't bought it because I'm still salty about the modern instruments, but I probably will, lol.

Quote
To add to my post above, here are the sets & recordings that I've not heard on modern instruments: those by the Cleveland, Auryn, Artis, Leipzig (mostly), Elias, Belcea (whose Schubert I didn't care for), Alexander 1 & 2, Cypress, Ysaye, Hungarian, Vlach, Peterson, Vermeer, Orford, Amadeus, Henschel, VOCES, Taneyev, Colorado, Sine Nomine, Kodaly, Medici, Yale, Fine Arts, Brodsky, Zehetmair, & Artemis Quartets (though I'd like to see the Artemis Quartet record a 2nd cycle with their wonderful new 1st violinist, Vineta Sareika--formerly of Trio Dali).
Cleveland: consistently very good
Auryn: have not heard any of because Tacet is a hecking expensive label
Artis: have not heard, did not know existed—there seems to be only one volume?
Leipzig: superb, includes some of my favourite recordings
Elias: still in progress, very "old-style" in playing, sort of reminiscent of the Budapest Qt
Belcea: superb across the board but if you didn't like Pražák or Cremona you won't like them either
Alexander 1: sort of like Quartetto Italiano?? need to revisit though
Alexander 2: like if Lindsay 2 had good intonation—very comprehensively rethought
Cypress: very solid and refined, I think the middle quartets were the best, also need to revisit
Ysaye: have not heard, did not know they completed a cycle??
Hungarian 1: probably the best ensemble work you'll hear all year, also much better intonation than the Budapests
Hungarian 2: just starting to look into it but apparently it's as good as Hungarian 1, except in stereo?? also OOP?? nice
Vlach: have not heard
Petersen: tend to dig deep interpretively, but you might have intonation issues
Vermeer: MOR, romantically tinged set, played with absolute commitment—a sleeper
Orford: have not heard
Amadeus: have not heard
Henschel: have not heard
Voces: have not heard, also seems to be hard to get
Taneyev: slow, heavy, patrician, with sublime moments
Colorado: average, claims to have "all marked repeats" but skips the second half repeat in Op. 135/iv (which to be fair is optional but still. false advertising), no real issues though
Sine Nomine: great sounding ensemble, full blooded, Schumannesque
Kodaly: pretty good as far as I know, sometimes underpowered
Medici: intonation & ensemble aren't always perfect but interpretations also good and MOR
Yale: see Juilliard 1960s.... basically just really solid & straightforward
Fine Arts: have not heard
Brodsky: have not heard
Zehetmair: as far as I know there's still only one, Op.135, on a 2CD set that's worth the price of admission just for the only recording of Heinz Holliger's 2nd String Quartet (if you like post-serial contemporary music)
Artemis: really top-notch as far as I can tell, but have yet to hear any complete quartets

Quote
As for the rest (be warned, these are just my opinions!), I disliked what I've heard of the Guarneri Quartet's RCA and Phillips cycles (finding them slick--with technically proficient but overly facile phrasing, at times)
I've only heard 59/3 from the RCA set and don't know the Phillips one.... it's not all that high on the list either. The RCA 59/3 probably appeals to me because their one-size-fits-all artistic approach of playing the slow movements really slow and the fast movements really fast happens to work well for that quartet. >.>

Quote
Juilliard Quartet (I can't be the only one that hears intonation problems with this group, can I?)
There are intonation problems (probably more so in Juilliard 2 than Juilliard 1, as Robert Mann was older by then.... flawless intonation didn't happen until Joel Smirnoff took over and by then the quartet's interpretations were much more boring) but I personally don't mind them. Quartets never play in equal temperament in my experience so I guess I have high tolerance.

Quote
Budapest Quartet (it's been decades since I've heard them, but I remember a composer friend once warned me that their Beethoven can sound like they're playing on out of tune instruments, despite whatever insights they offer)
Yes.
Quote
the Lindsay Quartet (except for their Op. 74--I can like the Lindsey's spirit at times, but it gets interrupted by their lapses in intonation, which seems to cause disagreements... ?)
I've only heard their second cycle, which does indeed have a lot of intonation problems as well as rather extreme micro-phrasing. The first cycle is supposed to be better.

Quote
Vegh Quartet (I can find their playing kind of rough, in a earthy way--and occasionally lacking in ensemble?, but realize that others think they get to the very heart and soul of the matter.  As for myself, I tend to prefer more refinement).
That's fair. If I had to recommend just one cycle to someone it would not be the Végh 2, but it's probably my personal favourite.

Quote
I also didn't overly care for the one disc I bought by Quartetto di Cremona (finding their playing exaggerated, and their slow movements not beautiful enough)
I like them, but yes, refinement.
Quote
or recordings by the Endellion Quartet (I disliked their Op. 132--which I tend to use as a measuring stick, & that was enough for me)
Also not very refined. I like a certain amount of grit, sweat, breath and tears so yes I like them also.

Quote
La Salle Quartet (I find their somewhat cool, smoothly detached style very ill-suited to the late quartets, though others seem to like them)
Don't know the commercial recordings but the bootleg Op. 132 is indeed good
Quote
and Prazak Quartet (a good Czech group, but for some reason, in Beethoven, they have a tendency to over stress or bring too much emphasis to the accents, which can make the music sound overly exaggerated at times; it can also cause their playing to become a little rough occasionally).
Have not heard but it's extremely high on my list.

Quote
Finally, one more quartet that I've got my eye on is the Ebene Quartet, whose late Beethoven on You Tube has impressed me:
If they ever do any studio Beethoven I am here for it.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Beethoven's String Quartets
« Reply #873 on: December 04, 2017, 06:16:10 AM »
The Hungarian stereo (I have not heard the mono one, but as the box is so cheap I will eventually get it) has supposedly intonation issues from the first violin and slower/more mainstream tempi but better sound and generally more variety (tempi, flexibility, tone colors). The mono cycle seems very fast and straightforward (sort of like Toscanini).
It was in a cheapo box with 40 or 50 discs of Beethoven and also available as a cheap separate box (plus some more chamber music) from EMI France. ASIN : B000050470
Unfortunately both these boxes seem out of print, so no cheapo option anymore.
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