It reads like irony from a master of the art. Reflecting on a performance of the Quartet in C sharp minor, op.131, George Bernard Shaw characterized Beethoven’s formidable late quartets as ‘. . . simple, unpretentious [and] perfectly intelligible . . . ’. Yet Shaw was serious in his contrarian estimation, preferring the valedictory works to the ‘wayward caprices of self-conscious genius’ which, to his ear, were the quartets of Beethoven’s middle period.
‘Are they always to be avoided’, asked Shaw, referring to the quartets commencing with op.127, ‘because the professors once pronounced them obscure and impossible?’ For decades, regrettably, the answer was yes. We thank Joseph Kerman for this sobering statistic: ‘. . . in the twenty-five year period after Beethoven’s death, Vienna – that great musical center – can boast a grand total of no more than seven public performances of any of these works.’
Tastes, however, change. In 1928, just a century after the composer’s death, music aficionado J. W. N. Sullivan wrote in his Beethoven biography that ‘In the last string quartets spiritual experiences are communicated of which it is very difficult to mention even the elements. And yet it is just this music that most moves us and impresses us as containing the profoundest and most valuable experiences that any artist has yet conveyed . .
Total time: 02:54:38
|Original Recording Format|
Robina Young, Brad Michel
Brad Michel, Sara Clerk
American Academy of Arts & Letters New York, fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Oji Hall tokyo Japan
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||November 15, 2014|
All Music Guide
This release follows albums of Beethoven’s early and middle quartets, issued by the Tokyo String Quartet between 2005 and 2009, and while the Tokyo’s personnel differs from past lineups, the group has maintained great consistency of tone, superb technique, and refined expression since its founding in 1969.
The same warmth of feeling and burnished sonorities that are characteristic of the earlier Beethoven recordings are still found here, and the added benefit of multichannel DSD recording gives the ensemble a heightened sense of separation and clarity, so anyone who is unable to find the older box set will be amply rewarded with these polished renditions.
As is always the case with performances of these revered works, connoisseurs will have their preferences for one or another ensemble’s recordings, but because the Tokyo String Quartet ranks so highly in most experts’ estimation, any comparisons that can be made are merely in degrees of excellence. Highly recommended. 5 Stars.
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