In the 1960s and in the decades following, the Budapest String Quartet’s mantle at Columbia was passed on to the Juilliard String Quartet. Over the years, with some changes in personnel, the ensemble repeatedly set down its famously lean, energetic and expressive interpretations of the Beethoven quartets in New York recording studios. These have remained catalogue staples. Less well known is the Beethoven cycle they recorded live in Washington at the Library of Congress in 1982. Gramophone singled out this complete traversal for its special depth and flexibility. Presented here on 9 albums, this is its first Sony release.
The slow introduction to the C Major Quartet No. 9 is handled wonderfully, which sets up well for the rest of the movement and the work as a whole. These are followed by nice recordings of the “Harp” and “Serioso” quartets, thus bringing the middle period to an end.
The late quartets open with a really nice recording of the Nos. 12 and 13, with the first of these being particularly fine. The final disc of the nine houses the 15th and 16th quartets, which again receive fairly good recordings. Overall, the tempos selected here tend to be slower than in their earlier recording, which is usual for live recordings.
Overall sound quality is, at times, a bit of an issue here, even taking into account the live nature of these recordings, and overall isn't up to the sound quality of the quartet's highly regarded 1960s studio cycle of these works for RCA.
– MusicWeb International