25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Middle Quartets

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beethoven’s three Razumovsky Quartets revolutionized the genre, so much so, that neither the works’ first performers nor audiences knew quite what to make of them. While the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart grew out of a tradition of the divertimento – music for diversion or background listening – these quartets from Beethoven's so-called middle period are very serious affairs that command the listener's full attention.

The Takács Quartet was almost three decades into its career as a quartet before it recorded these works, and the group seems to fully understand the scope of emotion, sonority and blend that they demand. Released in 2002, the recording was part of a complete Beethoven quartet cycle – the first such cycle on Decca – and it received the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance (it was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album).

Reviewer after reviewer gives the Takács a nod for its accomplished Beethoven playing and it’s hard to argue with the point here. The ensemble finds the emotional depths of the Adagio molto e mesto from Op. 59/1 and the dramatic heights of the Molto adagio of Op. 59/2, just as they power through the fugue at the end of Op. 59/3 with particular zeal. The album ends with a graceful reading of the Op. 74 “Harp” Quartet.

Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 59 Nos. 1-3 and “Harp” Op. 74
Takács Quartet
Available at Arkivmusic.com


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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally ,and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, one of which is www.WagnerOpera.com It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderevski, Emil Gilels and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective. The Beethoven violin concerto is celebrated by its ardent interpreters Heifetz, Menuhin, Kreisler and Perlman.

Dec. 06 2012 11:53 AM
Constantine from New York

You overlook the Serioso quartet, opus 90. Surely a recommendation for Beethoven's middle quartets should be complete (or include an alternative that is).

Nov. 26 2012 05:15 PM

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.