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Beethoven: Middle String Quartets / Budapest String Quartet

Release Date: 08/22/2000 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9099   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mischa SchneiderBoris KroytJoseph RoismanAlexander Schneider,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 2 Hours 36 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Budapest String Quartet, one of the past century's greatest ensembles, certainly was in its element with Beethoven's middle quartets. The group's approach to these seminal works is faithful yet original, playing with a striking cross between the multi-hued zeal and scope of orchestral playing and the freedom and flexibility of chamber music--an intoxicating combination.

Listening to this set, culled from live performances at the Library of Congress circa 1941 (with one exception), offers a chance to experience this understandably legendary quartet at the height of its powers. The players read Beethoven not as a sacred text, but with a rough-and-tumble respect, not afraid of a little tasteful vulgarity. What is most
Read more effective here is their ability to nail the master's penchant for surprise and bonhomie: even if you know these pieces inside and out and are following a score, the performances still offer moments of joyful shock. Every note is leading somewhere, part of a larger, symphonic conception.

The clearest example of the intelligence of these interpretations is the variation movement of Op. 74--on the page, a maze of repeat signs; in the hands of the Budapest a focused, directed piece of music, never sounding bluntly repetitive. The players' choices are always intelligent: the extra-swift opening tempo in Op. 95 allows for a more relaxed variations movement later on; a slightly cold allegro in Op. 59 No. 2 paves the way for an adagio that feels even more sumptuous by contrast. This is an ensemble that is unafraid to merge into a single unit, as in the registral climbs in the first movement of the Op. 74, where the four individuals sound like one über-instrument. Nor are they afraid to take their solo flights: cellist Mischa Schneider's playing in Op. 59 No. 1 is worth the price of admission. And each member plays everything fiendishly in tune, something we have come to expect from today's power quartets, but in the Budapest's day was a little more rare.

As noted, this set comes mostly from live concerts in 1941, and as near-flawless as the performances are, they're hampered by antiquated sound quality--and this is a real drawback. It is probably better to hear each piece separately then to enjoy this is a coherent program. One quartet, Op. 59 No. 2, was recorded in 1961, and the difference in sound quality (still not great, but getting there) is substantial. Also notable is the jump cut in the third movement of Op. 74, a splice necessitated by a missing master. It does distract, and combines with the abovementioned sonic concerns to make this a set primarily for Budapest or Beethoven Quartet cycle completists rather than neophytes to this music. However, this should not stop anyone from seeking out this amazing piece of history.

– Daniel Felsenfeld, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 7 in F major, Op. 59 no 1 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mischa Schneider (Cello), Boris Kroyt (Viola), Joseph Roisman (Violin),
Alexander Schneider (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Written: 1805-6 
Date of Recording: 10/26/1941 
Venue:  Live  Library of Congress, Washington DC 
Length: 38 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Following this selection is a recorded interview with Alexander Schneider
discussing the early years of the Budapest String Quartet. (Timing 6:02) 
Quartet for Strings no 9 in C major, Op. 59 no 3 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mischa Schneider (Cello), Joseph Roisman (Violin), Boris Kroyt (Viola),
Edgar Ortenberg (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Written: 1805/6 
Date of Recording: 03/1946 
Venue:  Live  Library of Congress, Washington DC 
Length: 28 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 8 in E minor, Op. 59 no 2 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Alexander Schneider (Violin), Joseph Roisman (Violin), Boris Kroyt (Viola),
Mischa Schneider (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1805-1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/01/1960 
Venue:  Live  Library of Congress, Washington DC 
Length: 31 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 10 in E flat major, Op. 74 "Harp" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Alexander Schneider (Violin), Mischa Schneider (Cello), Boris Kroyt (Viola),
Joseph Roisman (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/07/1941 
Venue:  Live  Library of Congress, Washington DC 
Length: 30 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings no 11 in F minor, Op. 95 "Serioso" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Boris Kroyt (Viola), Joseph Roisman (Violin), Mischa Schneider (Cello),
Alexander Schneider (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet
Written: 1810 
Date of Recording: 03/03/1940 
Venue:  Live  Library of Congress, Washington DC 
Length: 19 Minutes 58 Secs. 

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