This set of Beethoven string quartets by the Borodin Quartet reflects a mature perspective on the works. It's not that it lacks energy the Vivaces are vivacious and the Allegros have plenty of brio but it has wisdom and a maturity not generally characteristic of performances by younger quartets. These performances are comparable with the Budapest Quartet's last set of the quartets.
The Beethoven quartets have always been at the cote of the Emerson Quartet's repertoire, and over the years it has honed its playing of these works to a fine degree. Here in this new set we encounter exaltation, immaculate playing and ensemble precision of awesome proportions (typically, first and second violinists often swap their roles). The Emerson is perhaps the best rehearsed quartet of our century. The playing is not only flawless technically, but reflects a careful study of the music, both formally and in the players' intense preoccupation with textual matters. The recording of this set is also spectacular.
”… an outstanding project of landmark proportions…MDG has produced an excellent warm, intimate, life-sized recording. The composer provides his customarily thorough and enlightening notes … Highly recommended.” (Fanfare)
"The virtuosity and unanimity of the VPO strings command the highest respect. The grave opening fugue, the brilliant scherzo and the impassioned finale sound terrific … a fabulous disc." - Gramophone
Beethoven was the last great composer to write string trios, and his are the finest works of their type. Mozart hardly touched this particular combination, and Haydn wrote quite few very early works which are now completely unknown. In any case, Haydn used two violins and a cello, whereas with Beethoven the standard combination became violin, viola, and cello. These are all early works, expert examples of all that Beethoven learned from Haydn and Mozart in preparation for the writing of his first great string quartets. But far from being mere composition exercises, these are highly rewarding works on their own, and these outstanding performances make the best possible case for their claim to be ranked among Beethoven's chamber music masterpieces.