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  • Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
  • Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

CD

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

CD

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

£142.00 £86.00 Save: (39.44%)
£86.00 £142 Save £56 (39.44%)
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Product Description Product Description
Long absent from the active catalog following the unfortunate demise of the Calliope label, the highly-praised Beethoven interpretations of the legendary Talich Quartet make a welcome return with this specially-priced, limited-edition reissue from La Dolce Volta. The original seven-disc set of the complete String Quartets has been digitally remastered for optimal sound and is presented in a deluxe package befitting the nobility of these wonderful performances.
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Five stars, but with a reservationWonderful playing -- real insight. As good as any of the competing sets (Emerson, Cleveland, Alban Berg, etc.) A few idiosyncrasies -- the Talich quartet takes the Grosse Fugue notably faster than most others (favoring the dramatic over the counterpoint), the last movement of the 1st Rasumovsky Op 59 nr 1 is considerably slower (favoring the lyrical over the dance). The technical stuff -- intonation, ensemble, etc. -- is first rate.The sound is striking-- very closely miked, very detailed. For example, the contrast in tone between the viola and the two violins is much more noticeable than in most others. The inner voices are much more etched and audible. The dynamic contrasts are much more dramatic. Less reverb.The one thing I don't like is the layout on the disks.* Normally, you like to have the pieces ordered on the disks in some kind of order -- most sets of the quartets have them laid out so you don't have to look in the booklet to find where a specific quartet is, if it's an early quartet you look on discs 1 or 2, a middle quartet it's on 3,4, or 5, and a late quartet is on 6, 7, 8 (or sometimes 9). They're in order. Here, the layout is entrely catawampus.* Three of the seven sides mix a middle quartet with a late quartet -- the mood swing is kind of jarring.* Everyone else puts the Op 130 quartet and then the Grosse Fugue Op 133 sequentially on the same side -- Op 133 was originally composed as the finale of Op 130. The engineers for Talich set put the Grosse Fugue as the first thing on a side, followed by Op 95 and then Op 127. This side just doesn't "fit" musically.* Beethoven published the three Op 59 quartets together, and as a whole, they have a unity that's greater than the parts. But the engineers scattered the three Op 59 quartets over three disks.Minor gripe to an otherwise outstanding set.5Five StarsGreat performances and recording. Unusual grouping that works from a concert-type programing standpoint.5Finally an equal to ABQ's Beethoven quartets: Top-notch performance, great packagingFirstly I have to excuse my English as it is not my first language.I'm a great fan as well as a picky listener of Beethoven's quartets. I have owned the following versions of complete Beethoven's quartets:1. Quartetto Italiano2. Alban Berg Quartet (both live and studio)3. Amadeus Quartet4. Guarneri Quartet5. Emerson Quartet6. Melos QuartetPersonally I think Alban Berg Quartet takes the crown of Beethoven Quartet performance. Their playing is warm, delicate, well-balanced and nevertheless powerful and striking. For instance, I have never found elsewhere the great balance and wit in the finale of Op. 59 No. 3, or the unrushed and yet stupendous Op 131. In comparison, Italiano is way too 'soft' and lagging for Beethoven, while Emerson is a bit too 'New York', quite often in a hurry to show off their skills and ruin the 'inner conversations of the four strings'. The others are good overall but either the performance or recording is not as satisfying (For instance Guarneri's performance is not bad but RCA's recording sounds a bit dull).After I listened to Talich's recording, I feel that I finally found a match for ABQ's performance. Their cello isn't as thick and the first violin not as powerful as ABQ's, but they achieved even better balance. They showed great knowledge in Beethoven's music and really brought out the details and inner harmonies. They used rubatos more often in the mid - late quartets but always tastefully.I would also like to comment on the packaging itself. The box contains 7 cds in well-designed paper case, and an approx. 70-page booklet with nice illustrations of Talich Quartet. The text composition is the best of its kind, where important quotes takes up a full page in bold fonts instead of lying in between the 'usual' texts (like those of the bigger CD companies).Overall, I wont pretend that I have understood / consumed all the intents of the other recordings I mentioned above, but if you are a serious Beethoven lover, don't miss this wonderful gem.5Magnificent Reading of Challenging MusicI'm normally a period-instrument listener, almost to the exclusion of everything else. There is no complete cycle of Beethoven's string quartets on period instruments, so I hunted around for a good modern instrument set, and was directed to this one. I am thrilled with the result. The Quatuor Talich give a magnificent reading of this music, allowing the graces and nuances of Beethoven's sometimes fiendishly difficult music to shine through.Two words of criticism--the cover for the box set has got to be THE WORST classical album cover I have ever seen--godawful Blake-meets-Stanley Kubrick garbage that belongs on an album of bad early-80s synthesiser music. AND--Amazon customers, be warned: I picked up this set at a local record store for $39.98 CANADIAN--that's $29.98 in the US at current coversion rates. Why is Amazon stiffing its customers by charging $55.00 US? This is supposed to be a bargain-basement set (as the bargain-basement cover will tell you). Please, Amazon, reprice this fine set now!5Marvelously Intimate CommunicationThe string quartet is the highest achievement of classical music. How to describe what a great string quartet is/does? Four voices that sing, simultaneously dependently and independently. Or, as Goethe said, "a conversation among four very intelligent and witty persons." After almost 200 years, Beethoven's 16 quartets still stand as the acme of the form, notwithstanding brilliant contributions from just about every important composer since. There are many wonderful performances of the Beethoven quartets available on CD, but none are more distinguished than these performances by the Talich Quartet. More than any other ensemble in my experience, the Talich's performances proclaim that intimacy is the true experience of quartet playing (and listening). Every phrase is projected with exquisite attention to the constantly shifting balance of light and shadow that is the hallmark of the greatest quartet playing. Tempos are vigorous without being rushed, rubato is applied in the subtlest way imaginable, and dynamics seem to explore impossible distinctions between pp and ppp. In short, every performance in this set invites you to carefully listen to Beethoven's musical argument as you've never listened before. As a result, unless you own really sophisticated speakers, the best way to hear these performances is over headphones. (Sound quality is a bit dry, but the acoustic suits the Talich's style perfectly.) Last and certainly least: note the price. Originally available on seven premium-priced CDs, the new Soft Box format provides elegant packaging at a handsomely reduced cost. There is no one way or best way to play this music; Beethoven's accomplishment is too rich to be captured by any one performance or performing group. But the Talich recordings stand among the very best you'll ever hear. It's a very great privilege to listen in on their kind of conversation!5Splendid music, poor soundI really enjoyed these performances from a musical viewpoint. These players are up to the challenges of Beethoven, and they acquit themselves nobly. The problem is the sound - the violin sound has a razor edge on it. Because of this, I would recommend the Tokyo, the Takacs, or the Quartetto Italiano. Bad luck.3Talich + Beethoven = Old world charm!The Talich Quartet on the Calliope label play the Beethoven quartets with that distinguished old-world charm, full of warmth and relaxation, neatly unfussy and memorable by the radiant tone to which this ensemble has the solution. (Also read my fellow reviews appraisal.) The early quartets I enjoyed perhaps the most. They play all six quartets (Opus 18 no. 1-6) like they were just sitting around a fire place making music for the love of music. This can be said of all sixteen quartets really. The middle quartets (Op. 59 no. 1-3, Op. 74, Op. 95) hold up well against a lot of classic and modern versions, including the Vegh, Guarneri, Italian, Budapest and Emerson Quartets. I really thought the Talich version of Opus 59 no. 2 was perhaps the best I`ve ever heard. The late quartet performances (Op. 127, 130, 131, 132, 133 and 135) are fabulous as well, holding their own against the Busch, Budapest, Vegh, Guarneri, Italian, etc. The recordings are captured in a very fine, logically balanced analog recording. Finally, I wouldn't give up my other sets for only these interpretations, BUT if I were on that infamous desert island and could only have this set, I would be extremely happy to live out my days with this one.5Great performances; great priceThe Vermeer Quartet's 9 CD collection is also available as 3 separate volumes of 3 CDs each. This collection is priced about one third less than the combined cost of the three individual albums, making it not just a fine recording, but a great value as well.The Vermeer Quartet is fantastic, and although the competition in these works is formidable, the Vermeer holds its own in comparisons to the others. The early and middle quartets are beautifully played, and the contrasting playful and dramatic moods are well stated.It is with the late quartets that this recording really distances itself from most of the other versions. The late quartets are perhaps the highest level of creativity Beethoven achieved. These unconventional works, when in the hands of less gifted players, often fall flat or leave the listener befuddled. Here, the Vermeer leave the listener in awe, not with their own virtuosity, but with Beethoven's profound genius.If you love Beethoven, and you do not already own another version of these quartets, do not hesitate to purchase this.5Good Choice for Beginners as well as AficionadosI own more complete Beethoven sets than I probably should: Takacs, The first Alban Berg, the Arte Nova Alexander, Budapest, Vegh, Gewandhaus, the first Tokyo and this one. To me, the Talich is just about perfect interpretavely although they avoid repeats in two of the Op. 18 quartets - a no-no in my book. But their tempi are good, the balance is perfect and the sound they make is pleasing to the ear. I don't have a problem with the recording quality, but it isn't state-of-the-art. I am not overly sensitive to mediocre recordings, since I wear hearing aids thanks to too many rock concerts in my youth. But that's another story.For newcomers to these great works, this is a solid first choice as long as you don't require audiophile sound quality. The same goes with the budget set by the Alban Berg Quartet on EMI. But if you need excellent sound, you might give a listen to the Gewandhaus or the new Tokyo Quartet set on Harmonia Mundi.A final note: As I write this in early 2014, it is much more cost effective to purchase this set as CDs rather than downloads. And you get a nice booklet in a handsome box to boot.Enjoy!5Warm and technically accurate playing that is especially rewarding in the Late QuartetsThis has long been one of my top choices for the Beethoven quartets, along with the highly-praised (deservedly so) Takacs set. This Czech ensemble doesn't get the press the latter Hungarian outfit does, partly due to the fact that this cycle was recorded for a small budget French label, and partly due to general lack of exposure stateside. These two sets are in many ways diametrically opposed; the Takacs quartet aims for sheer technical mastery, and is what I'd characterize as a "new world" approach to the Beethoven Cycle of Sixteen; sharp dynamics, lightning fast tempi in the outer movements, and a slightly over-reverberant acoustic to the recording. Somewhere on the other end of the interpretive spectrum there is the Talich set, which while also technically assured in the outer movements, isn't quite the technical showcase in the way the Takacs set is. It's not that they are lacking in technical chops - they still feature very strong ensemble play, although each member also maintains their own distinct voice and personality - I just don't think they quite stack up when compared to some of the great technical ensembles out there who've also traversed The Sixteen (the aforementioned Takacs, along with Alban Berg, Tokyo, Emerson, etc.) And while the Takacs set and others of its kind offer us pointedly self-aware Beethoven, the Talich play in a more unassuming (yet still self-assured) fashion, submitting their talents completely to the service of the music, which to my ear adds needed gravitas, particularly during the moments of deep introspection in the Late/Great works. The Talich also opt for a warmer sound than what one usually hears these days, hearkening back to style of the Quartetto Italiano in a way. However, unlike the Italiano, genial warmth doesn't come at the expense of architectural integrity, or the smoothing of Beethoven's many rough edges as one will find at points throughout that cycle. This set strikes a near ideal balance between that approach and the former.As with any Beethoven Quartet cycle, there are strengths and weaknesses. These quartets are pillars of the genre, particularly the last five, and they convey such a vast range of human emotion that no single set can claim to be the final word in this music; the Talich can't make that claim either. However, they excel in the late quartets, particularly during the slow movements, where Beethoven composed some of the most sublime musical utterances to be found anywhere in his oeuvre, or in the entire history of Western music for that matter. The Molto Adagio of op. 132, surely one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever conceived, is given a divine performance - the best I've heard, really - as the Talich manage to convey the proper level of intimacy through unassuming, faithful musicianship, tasteful touches of rubato, and a subtle underlining of specific phrases. Another strongpoint to their interpretations of the late works is that they do an excellent job of keeping a consistent voice in tact from movement to movement; this is no small feat, as by this time Beethoven had smashed traditional Sonata form in favor of constantly shifting the landscape through abrupt tempo changes, departures to remote keys, and of course his trademark juxtaposition of themes. Without a high level of musicianship, all of this can come across as nearly incoherent, but the Talich manage to expertly keep everything from careening off the planet, which can sometimes happen in lesser hands. They also do a nice job with the Early and Middle quartets, and would be a fine reference for a beginner collector; but be warned that in a field as crowded as this better fare is available; in my view the Takacs have everyone beat in the Middle quartets, and the Alban Berg are tough to match in the early op. 18 quartets.Recording quality is...interesting. Not bad, just unusual. The sound is dry, immediate and direct. It's not unpleasant, it's just not the usual acoustic one hears in chamber recordings. Everything is easily heard, but if you've just popped this on after listening to say, the Takacs set, your ears will need some time to adjust. The packaging is puzzling. A big booklet is included that isn't particularly well-written (English translation, at least). The big, oversized cardboard box these discs came in is larger than other CD cases, and included single discs in cardboard sleeves - I really dislike this type of packaging, to be honest. Overall the packaging is definitely the most disappointing thing about this set. Apparently this was recently re-released by a different label, but I have the older Calliope set and thus don't know if it's since been improved.Overall, this set comes with the highest recommendation, not just from me but also a number of Classical critical review sites. It's particularly desirable for the wonderful interpretations of the late quartets, and if you have a keen interest in Beethoven's often transcendent late-era slow movements, this set shouldn't be missed. At the new budget price of this set's re-release (available here), this is a can't-miss deal. The Talich quartet doesn't have the name recognition of some of its more famous brethren, but this is a tremendous ensemble whose only mistake is not getting enough exposure on this side of the Atlantic. Chamber music fanatics would do well to add this to their collection, as the Talich plumb the depths and provide new insight, particularly in Late/Great Quartets of Beethoven's final years. Highest recommendation.5
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