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

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    You know, this topic has been talked to death already.

    All one has to do is a search and you would have found a gazillion recommendations.

    As has been stated already here and many other places on TC, the older Tokyo set on RCA is incredible in its consistent excellence throughout the set. A great string quartet in its prime.
    Agree completely. I keep recommending aset that no one else has, namely the Hungarian Quartet. I first learned the music from their set of Seraphim lps and was able to purchase the CDs from a French import site. All of the above refers to their early 1960s Stereo set. Warner has just released their early 50s mono set for something like $8 and it's very fine as well.
    The Tokyo set is very good. It is much better than the SACD set recorded by the Quartets final line up on Harmonia Munda--and much cheaper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Improbus View Post
    People are bound to disagree, especially when things are done better than usual. To me it sounds measured, smooth and well-articulated, but others may value other things.
    Which is why I responded to the "they blow the rest out of the water" comment, perhaps a little too strongly.

    I've heard and loved many sets but no group does every quartet perfectly. And in fact I find the Kodaly, at their best, to have the qualities you mention, notwithstanding my other criticisms.
    Last edited by classfolkphile; Aug-22-2017 at 15:44.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    No argument from me, but of particular note is the complete cycle the Budapest Quartet recorded at the Library of Congress in 1951 and 52. The second violinist in these recordings is Jac Gorodetzky and not Alexander Schneider. Gorodetzky was a great violinist but was emotionally unstable and ultimately committed suicide in 1955. Alexander Schneider then returned to the quartet. A few months after this cycle was completed, first violinist Josef Roisman fell and badly broke his arm. He had difficulty recovering and probably never fully returned to peak form.
    This is the best set for me. The earlier Budapest recordings are outstanding but the sound quality is not. (Sound quality of the 1951-52 set is so-so but much better than the earlier material.) Their later stereo Beethoven cycle is very good but in my opinion features the quartet slightly past its prime.
    Gorodetzky was indeed a wonderful violinist and it is a terrible tragedy that he met such a premature (and self-inflicted) end. In fact, I have the 1951 recording of the line up featuring him performing Schumann's Piano Quintet with Clifford Curzon on the stereo as I write. The cycle I have features either Alexander Schneider or Edgar Ortenberg on second violin, I did not know that they had recorded a separate complete cycle featuring Gorodetzky. Thank you very much for the information, I will be sure to seek it out.
    Last edited by chill782002; Aug-22-2017 at 15:55.

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    Sr. Moderator TurnaboutVox's Avatar
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    I second the recordings by the Quartetto Italiano, the Tokyo and the Alban Berg quartets, for their different virtues.

    Pssst. But don't forget IMO the most poetic and musical version of all, if you can forgive its obvious flaws too, which is the Talich Quartet on Calliope.

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  8. #20
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    For the greatest Quartet cycle, I don`t that there ever can be a "best" recorded set. I have most of the most of the sets listed, and a number of single CD`s. While I use the Quartetto Italiano recordings as a sort of reference, I think all the groups that have recorded the music bring their own valid view points to their perfomances.
    a note on the Budapest Quartet.; As very young University student ( I entered a year sooner then most)I heard their last concert in New York City. At the time I had 4 or 5 recordings of Chamber Music, but this was my first "live" Chamber Music concert. They played in a hall very close to my school, and for 2$ I took a chance. The only work that they performed that I recall and knew was the Debussy Quartet.
    If H.G. Wells Time Machine was available, I would be on it so that I could hear that concert again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by realdealblues View Post
    Everyone has their favorites and you will probably see the same dozen or so recommendations. Much of it depends on how much you want to spend and how much comparative listening you want to do.

    I have over a dozen sets and I personally like the sets from Alban Berg Quartett and Quartteto Italiano the best.
    Yep those are the two. Still have a soft spot for the Amadeus Quartet.
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quartetfore View Post
    For the greatest Quartet cycle, I don`t that there ever can be a "best" recorded set. I have most of the most of the sets listed, and a number of single CD`s. While I use the Quartetto Italiano recordings as a sort of reference, I think all the groups that have recorded the music bring their own valid view points to their perfomances.
    a note on the Budapest Quartet.; As very young University student ( I entered a year sooner then most)I heard their last concert in New York City. At the time I had 4 or 5 recordings of Chamber Music, but this was my first "live" Chamber Music concert. They played in a hall very close to my school, and for 2$ I took a chance. The only work that they performed that I recall and knew was the Debussy Quartet.
    If H.G. Wells Time Machine was available, I would be on it so that I could hear that concert again.
    Wow, thanks for sharing that memory. I'm very envious.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    The Tokyo set is very good. It is much better than the SACD set recorded by the Quartets final line up on Harmonia Munda--and much cheaper.
    I agree. Sonic aside, I found their remake disappointing.

    The Alexander on Foghorn is my "go-to" set, although I wouldn't part with the Hungarians or the first Tokyo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triplets View Post
    Agree completely. I keep recommending aset that no one else has, namely the Hungarian Quartet. I first learned the music from their set of Seraphim lps and was able to purchase the CDs from a French import site. All of the above refers to their early 1960s Stereo set. Warner has just released their early 50s mono set for something like $8 and it's very fine as well.
    The Tokyo set is very good. It is much better than the SACD set recorded by the Quartets final line up on Harmonia Munda--and much cheaper
    Who says no one else has the Hungarian quartet set? I think it came in three boxes, and I have at least one or two of them. I know I have the op. 18 box for sure, and it's very good. For the late quartets, the LaSalle on DG is very good too.
    Just kidding, by the way. I know you meant no one else has recommended them.
    Last edited by fluteman; Aug-24-2017 at 03:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    I agree. Sonic aside, I found their remake disappointing.

    The Alexander on Foghorn is my "go-to" set, although I wouldn't part with the Hungarians or the first Tokyo.
    Their first complete recording was very good, but I think the second is even better. Since they are located in San Francisco the name of their label is fitting. Off the Beethoven Quartets for a moment, the Alexander`s Shostakovich recordings are top notich

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    Quote Originally Posted by chill782002 View Post
    I think the recordings by the Takacs Quartet should meet your requirements.
    Thank you - I'll definitely check that one out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    You know, this topic has been talked to death already.

    All one has to do is a search and you would have found a gazillion recommendations.

    As has been stated already here and many other places on TC, the older Tokyo set on RCA is incredible in its consistent excellence throughout the set. A great string quartet in its prime.
    I did in fact do several searches search but kept getting errors - but thank you anyway.

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  20. #28
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    Vegh Quartet
    Takács Quartet
    Alban Berg Quartet

    I'd add the Kodály Quartet (Naxos) as well

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    The Aris Quartet, IMHO the best newcomer in the last years, is putting out beethoven 59/3 and 131 on the market on September 8, 2017. I got the CD already and it is superb.

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    I have the Takács Quartet for the middle and late quartets and recommend them without reservation.

    For the early quartets, op.18 (1-6), i have the Tokyo Quartet. The Tokyo sound quality is superb; in a direct comparison of #1 on Spotify I thought the sound quality was slightly better the Takács, fuller and more realistic. I also felt the performance was a bit livelier. BUT throughout op.18 there seemed something slightly superficial about the Tokyo quartet performances. A Guardian reviewer expressed this well:

    “The Tokyo Quartet continues to prize beauty of sound and smoothness of articulation above all other musical qualities, … but ... the phrasing here is far too manufactured and uniform, the expressiveness applied like toothpaste from a tube… the Tokyo seem to skate over profundity.” https://www.theguardian.com/music/20...-string-review

    I agree with this, in relation to Op.18. In the later quartets, I never feel the Takács Quartet are manufactured or uniform They are always spontaneous, varied, and interesting. They also maintain beauty of sound and great articulation. Also, I see they now have a box set of the complete quartets at a reasonable price. If I was starting out I'd buy that box set.

    But you are never going to get "everything" from one box set. Maybe the Tokyo box set would be a good second purchase, if sound quality and beauty of sound are your priorities. If you want greater inspiration and depth, with slightly compromised sound quality, then the Busch quartet may be the way to go.

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