This is a bright, lively, and bracing performance of Beethoven's massive quartet, made so by the inclusion of the optional Grosse Fugue Op. 133 as a finale. Actually, the Kodály Quartet programs the shorter "replacement" finale first, and its continuity of style from the preceding Cavatina makes it sound naturally like Beethoven's first thoughts on the matter. It's a smart and fetching movement--Borodin apparently thought so too, as he seemingly borrowed the second theme for his own String Quartet No. 1. But the Kodály's reading is not all froth and bubbles: they really point up the underlying intellectual rigor of the first movement and the subtle seriousness of the following presto. Turning to the Grosse Fugue, the Kodálys miraculously make it sound more like a piece of music, and less like the sawhorse it can and often does. This is one of those Beethoven works that you respect more than you love, and though I was very impressed by the Emerson Quartet's nigh-unmatchable precision and speed, I found myself warming to the music more in the Kodály's human-scaled performance. Naxos' full sound makes this excellent release all the much more ingratiating.
– Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com