Beethoven: The Late String Quartets

Tokyo String Quartet

23.9931.49
Clear
Original Recording Format: DSD 64

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 . . 

Tracklist

1.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - I. Maestoso - Allegro
06:32
2.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - II. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto cantabile
13:40
3.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - III. Scherzando vivace
08:19
4.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - IV. Finale
07:00
5.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - I. Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo
06:17
6.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - II. Allegro molto vivace
02:57
7.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - III. Allegro moderato - Adagio
00:45
8.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - IV. Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile
13:47
9.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - V. Presto
05:02
10.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - VI. Adagio quasi un poco andante
01:55
11.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - VII. Allegro
06:34
12.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - I. Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro
13:03
13.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - II. Presto
02:02
14.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - III. Andante con moto ma non troppo
06:58
15.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - IV. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai
03:33
16.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - V. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo
06:16
17.
"Fugue for string quartet in B-flat major ""Grosse Fuge"", Op. 133"
16:18
18.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - VI. Finale. Allegro
10:06
19.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - I. Assai sostenuto - Allegro
09:16
20.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - II. Allegro ma non tanto
09:09
21.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - III. Molto adagio
16:03
22.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - IV. Alla Marcia, assai vivace
02:17
23.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - V. Allegro appassionato
06:49

Total time: 02:54:38

Additional information

Artists

Mastering Engineer

Brad Michel

Genres

,

Label

Qualities

Channels

, ,

Original Recording Format

Composers

Producer

Robina Young, Brad Michel

Recording Engineer

Brad Michel, Sara Clerk

Recording location

American Academy of Arts & Letters New York, fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Oji Hall tokyo Japan

Recording Type & Bit Rate

DSD64

Recording Software

Pyramix

SKU

HMU857481.83

Release Date November 11, 2014
SKU HMU857481.83

Press reviews

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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