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Thread: Best recording/s of the Beethoven String Quartets.

  1. #136
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    1. Vegh Quartet (1972-74; Valois/Naive)
    2. Lindsay String Quartet (1975-84; ASV/Resonance)
    3. Tokyo Quartet (1989-92; RCA)
    4. Quartetto Italiano (1967-75; Phi/Decca)
    Last edited by hoodjem; May-30-2020 at 15:49.

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  3. #137
    Senior Member Fugal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by perdido34 View Post
    I've listened to several of the Ebene discs via downloads. I found them quite variable. The best performance of the bunch I've heard is the Grosse Fuge, which is incredibly clear and played with strong accents. In contrast, Razumovsky #3 seemed soft-edged. I'm also not wild about the cello, which sounds more tenor/baritone and not very strong in the bass--but the cellist is a fine musician.

    All of the performances are live and recorded in different cities. The discs I heard seemed to have close microphoning with some added reverb.
    I liked the set very much at first, and I still admire many aspects, but that close perspective gets a little wearing after a while. I think my favorite (I really wish EVERYONE would quit saying "the best" or asking about it--it's much too subjective) for day-to-day listening is the Quartetto Italiano on vinyl.

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  5. #138
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fugal View Post
    I liked the set very much at first, and I still admire many aspects, but that close perspective gets a little wearing after a while.
    I agree - it's more tolerable at home in a bigger room, but tough going in my office or via headphones. I have the same issue with the Juilliard Quartet's 1960's set. Much as I love the performances, the sonics make it hard to listen to on a regular basis.

    I think my favorite (I really wish EVERYONE would quit saying "the best" or asking about it--it's much too subjective) for day-to-day listening is the Quartetto Italiano on vinyl.
    For me, it's probably the Alexander Quartet's second version on Foghorn, or the Musikverein Quartet on Platz (the latter is a great set if you can find it).

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Vegh stereo, Italiano, and Takacs are my three essential cycles. I also love Busch, Lindsay, and Juilliard for the late quartets. I think many ensembles (like the famous Alban Berg set IMO) can fall into the trap of “overprettifying” the music and hence missing out on the essential depth and potential for interpretive exploration inherent in these sublime works.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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  9. #140
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Recently I've been playing the Tokyo Quartet's first set a lot and it's still a brilliant cycle.

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  11. #141
    Senior Member Fugal's Avatar
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    Among more recent releases, the Quartor Ebene is very good, but I still prefer the Quartetto Italiano.


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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    I’m buying the Leipziger Streichquartett’s 10-CD set (includes the quintets). Haven’t heard it yet but the playing and sound are said to be brilliant. Wish me luck!

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  14. #143
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    I have Emersons, but they focus more on virtuosity than emotional impact.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    I have two sets: Colorado SQ & Belcea Quartet, which I haven't even heard yet outside of a couple selections (13, 14 & 15, before I even bought the set). I also have the late quartets from the Kodály Quartet on Naxos, which is very good but I don't want to spend the $30+ that would be needed to complete it. (Maybe someday I'll buy the Naxos Beethoven box.) Not sure if I need any more though it would be nice to get one of the "classic" sets at some point, Italiano or Berg or Juilliard or some such. Truth be told, the Beethoven quartets are not stimulating my imagination at this moment. My focus lies entirely elsewhere, even within Beethoven. I go through long phases where his quartets do nothing for me, and other phases where they're all I want to hear.

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  18. #145
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    At first I found the Belcea a little lightweight but I soon found myself loving it. And so far it remains the only recent set that I have heard and found worthwhile (as good as the best of the slightly older ones - I'm sure I will have posted my best choices somewhere in this thread - but with something new to add). I will try to sample the Ebene. Any other recent ones I should be searching out?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fugal View Post
    Among more recent releases, the Quartor Ebene is very good, but I still prefer the Quartetto Italiano.

    Second that. This is the best recent recording to my ear. Sound engineer is excellent and very exciting live performance but I have yet done a detailed evaluation of it.

    For the classics, I should mention Tokyo Quartet as it normally fly under the radar but it's one of my favorite, witty and lovely, not your usual "heavy" or "deep" Beethoven.

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  21. #147
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    I’m buying the Leipziger Streichquartett’s 10-CD set (includes the quintets). Haven’t heard it yet but the playing and sound are said to be brilliant. Wish me luck!
    An excellent set, hope you enjoy it!

  22. #148
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ORigel View Post
    I have Emersons, but they focus more on virtuosity than emotional impact.
    This cliché gets tossed out there a lot about the Emersons. But what does it mean? If they missed more notes like Vegh, were as out of tune as the Lindsays, or failed more often at ensemble togetherness like Budapest, would that make their set better? In other words, they'd be better if they sucked?

    I used to avoid the Emerson's Beethoven cycle because of comments like this. I wish I hadn't; it's rubbish.

    It is true that the Emerson Quartet is just about the most virtuosic and polished string quartet around. That this is used as a focal point of criticism is absolutely baffling.

    I've recently done a complete re-listen, and the Emerson set is superb, clearly one of the best. Their performances are not less emotional or any of that nonsense. I mean, how would you even know? Telepathy does not exist. But no musician, not even one, works as hard as the Emersons clearly did in order to achieve the polish they did without really, really, really loving their work. No one does that.

    Beethoven Quartets will frustrate the Hades out of you if you try to play them at a top level and aren't deeply emotionally engaged with the music. Actually, they still will, but you'll feel like it is worth it. Achieving the polish the Emersons did is a hugely remarkable achievement, a labor of love over countless thousands of hours or practice and rehearsal.

    The Emerson performances are not particularly idiosyncratic or esoteric, so if you're looking for that, this might not be the set for you. Interpretively, they're basically mainstream. They don't pull back on any Beethovenian punches, but they also don't do anything particularly unexpected, other than play with astonishing conviction and clarity. Their tempi are forthright but largely conventional. They play in tune and absolutely together, with really excellent albeit mainstream Beethovenian style.

    But given that, it is as terrific, polished, and committed mainstream set of Beethoven Quartets as you will find, and in high-quality recorded sound. Recommended.
    Last edited by Knorf; Jul-07-2020 at 17:48.

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  24. #149
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Let's focus on a specific "virtuosic" section to test this. In the "Harp" quartet, at 5:50-6:14. Is Emerson better than this?

    https://youtu.be/eH6t5sh9tRE

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-07-2020 at 18:00.

  25. #150
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Let's focus on a specific "virtuosic" section to test this. In the "Harp" quartet, at 5:50-6:14. Is Emerson better than this?
    Better, no. Different, yes.

    For the record, I think the Guarneri cycle is also terrific.

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