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.
Formed by three Austrian immigrants and one youthful Londoner, the Amadeus Quartet came to prominence in postwar England. It excelled in the Classical repertoire, and its recordings in the 1950s were important contributions to the growing body of chamber music on the newly introduced LP. The process of recording on tape was a major improvement over the start-and-stop 78 rpm methods, and these clean and skillfully edited masters hold up quite well in the digital transfer. This seven-disc set follows Deutsche Grammophon's 2003 reissue of the quartet's early Mozart recordings, and covers works by Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, thus giving a fuller representation of the group's prodigious output for Westminster and DG.
Bruckner's early string quartet is more a composition exercise than a full-fledged work of art, but the quintet is something else entirely: a chamber music masterpiece to rank with the great symphonies in expressive intensity and sheer musical grandeur. Indeed, there are a few places where Bruckner seems to demand an almost orchestral volume of tone, and the slow movement has been successful performed (and recorded) by a full string orchestra. The Intermezzo is none other than an alternative scherzo for the quintet, composed because the original players at the premier found Bruckner's first thoughts too difficult. Well, the members of L'Archibudelli certainly don't find the music too difficult–you won't find better performances anywhere.
“You have the sense when listening to Haydn that you’re in very good company; though he’s a great genius, he somehow seems like one of us”. The words of Philip Setzer. Beautifully recorded, exceptionally well played, the Emerson’s traversal of seven quartets of Haydn offers a wonderful musical journey – 1772 to 1799 in terms of chronology; in terms of musical values and growth, well, Haydn’s inventiveness and imagination are simply remarkable.
Jaakko Kuusisto is one of Finlands most versatile musicians, a quality demonstrated by his rich discography on BIS in which he appears as violinist (in chamber music, as soloist and as concertmaster), conductor, arranger and composer. In the latter capacity, he made his mark on disc in 2013, with the release of his violin concerto (on BIS-2020) a work which received great acclaim in international media, including American Record Guide.
The Takács Quartet began their exclusive association with Decca in 1988 and the first release was the CD of Haydn String Quartets, op.76 nos.1-3; this was followed by the other three quartets that make up the set: op.76 nos. 4-6. This set of quartets was Haydn's last and was published in 1797 (his projected set of 6 quartets op.77 produced just two works and his op.103 remained a fragment). The second of these discs, containing nos.4-6 of op.76 was particularly warmly received by Gramophone in January 1990.
The Takács Quartet, Hungarian but now resident in the U.S., takes string quartet playing back to its basics here, and does so transcendently (paradoxical as that may sound). You may find the playing a bit neutral at first, with Haydn's more dancelike rhythms rendered straightforwardly, but keep listening: each movement is a carefully polished jewel, with each instrument making up a set of perfectly sharp facets.