Apart from the Takacs Quartet, whose spirited, youthful account for Hungaroton/Conifer (4/88) of Schumann's three quartets was marred by inferior recorded sound, no single group has as yet given us either a complete Schumann or Brahms quartet cycle on CD—and certainly not a composite set of all six works. So all gratitude to the Melos Quartet for filling the gap. Their playing is immediately enjoyable for its warmth, its rhythmic impulse and its very positive directness. To try and place it in sharper perspective I've nevertheless taken the liberty of comparing the two discs with my cherished old LP set of the same works from the Quartetto Italiano (Philips—nla). For even though this has recently been deleted, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it back in the shops, digitally remastered, before too long.
Debussy's Études are really the only set that deserves to be put beside Chopin's. What makes them so special? Like his, they are truly "practice pieces," systematically exploring various aspects of keyboard technique. But at the same time, they are poetic works of art, full of fantasy, charm, and musical invention. Uchida's recording is almost universally regarded as the finest version of these works to appear in modern times. Her playing combines effortless virtuosity with pianistic precision, keeping the music's artistic and pedagogical tendencies in a state of exquisite tension. This disc also established Uchida's claim to be recognized as one of the most interesting and talented pianists now active. You need to hear it.