Notes and Editorial Reviews
Much as I have enjoyed other digital recordings of Beethoven's first quartets by (for example) the Takacs and Lindsay Quartets, this new Tokyo set just about pips all rivals to the post. The reason is primarily one of balance, not only within the group itself but also in terms of overall musical judgement — whether relating to tempo, dynamics or emphases, or simply the way the players combine a sense of classical style with an appreciation of Beethoven's startling originality. Even as early as No l's pensive opening, you notice how skilfully rests are being gauged, contrasts in colour and inflection, too: the way the clipped first motif leads into its sweetly imploring extension a couple of bars later. The Scherzo's skipping gait, incisive
but lightly dispatched, is another source of pleasure, and so is the seemingly effortless swirl of the closing Allegro. The old quartet cliché about "leaning together" is here a principal attribute. Try the first movement of Op 18 No 2 at 3'56": this could be one person playing the start of the finale. Few ensembles have characterised the A major's cantering first idea as happily as the Tokyos do here, while the ethereal and texturally variegated middle movements anticipate the very different world of Beethoven's "late" quartets. Beautifully blended recordings, too: if you're after a top-ranking digital set of Op 18, you couldn't do better — though placing them in the context of a complete cycle is rather more difficult until the late quartets appear.
— Gramophone [2/2008]
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