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Beethoven: String Quartets Opp. 74, 95, 135 Eroica Quartet (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907254).

Beethoven: String Quartets Opp. 74, 95, 135 Eroica Quartet (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907254)

With so many recordings of Beethoven quartets available in today's marketplace, what would be the appeal of this new one by a young British quartet? For starters, there is the program, which features three of Beethoven's quartets, two from his "middle" period and one from his final days, presented in chronological order. But what really sets this disc apart is the approach of the players, who come from Britain's "historically informed performance" school. In performing these works, they have gone back to versions of the scores that indicate ways of playing that are somewhat different from what we are used to hearing today. For example, there is more slurring between notes than we are used to hearing in modern performances, and the bow is used differently from how it is used today.

The result of these differences in performing style is a sound that is different from what we are used to hearing. I really enjoyed the Eroica performances of Opp. 74 (the "Harp") and 95 ("Quartetto Serioso") on first hearing, but Op. 135 was disappointing to me in that it seemed to lack energy. Having listened to these performances many more times now, I quite enjoy the disc overall; however I still find Op. 135 to be bit on the tame side, although I will concede that this approach works well in the slower portions of the work. All things considered, however, this is a highly recommendable recording of truly great music, especially to those who already have one or more recordings of these works and would like to hear what an alternative stylistic approach might sound like. The warm sound quality and informative liner notes make this release a top-notch production in every respect. -- KWN
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Author:Nehring, Karl W.
Publication:Sensible Sound
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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