Beethoven: The Late String Quartets (2010)

Beethoven

Tokyo String Quartet

It reads like irony from a master of the art. Reflecting on a performance of the Quartet in C sharp minor, op.131, George Bernard Shaw characterized Beethoven’s formidable late quartets as ‘. . . simple, unpretentious [and] perfectly intelligible . . . ’. Yet Shaw was serious in his contrarian estimation, preferring the valedictory works to the ‘wayward caprices of self-conscious genius’ which, to his ear, were the quartets of Beethoven’s middle period.

‘Are they always to be avoided’, asked Shaw, referring to the quartets commencing with op.127, ‘because the professors once pronounced them obscure and impossible?’ For decades, regrettably, the answer was yes. We thank Joseph Kerman for this sobering statistic: ‘. . . in the twenty-five year period after Beethoven’s death, Vienna – that great musical center – can boast a grand total of no more than seven public performances of any of these works.’

 

Tastes, however, change. In 1928, just a century after the composer’s death, music aficionado J. W. N. Sullivan wrote in his Beethoven biography that ‘In the last string quartets spiritual experiences are communicated of which it is very difficult to mention even the elements. And yet it is just this music that most moves us and impresses us as containing the profoundest and most valuable experiences that any artist has yet conveyed . . 

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Tokyo String Quartet

Regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world, the Tokyo String Quartet has captivated audiences and critics alike since it was founded 42 years ago. Performing over a hundred concerts worldwide each season, the quartet has a devoted international following that includes the major capitals of the world and extends to all four corners, from Australia to Estonia to Scandinavia and the Far East. The Tokyo Quartet has served on the faculty at the Yale School of Music since 1976 and is quartet-in-residence at New York’s 92nd Street Y. Deeply committed to coaching young string quartets, the musicians regularly conduct master classes throughout NorthAmerica, Europe and Japan.
 Officially formed in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music, the Tokyo String Quartet traces its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where the founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito. Soon after its formation, the quartet won First Prize at the Coleman Competition, the Munich Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. An exclusive collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon (more than 40 landmark recordings) firmly established it as one of the world’s leading quartets. The ensemble now records for harmonia mundi usa and has recently concluded an acclaimed cycle of Beethoven’s complete string quartets.

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Beethoven: The Late String Quartets (2010)

Beethoven

Tokyo String Quartet

    "benefit of multichannel DSD recording gives the ensemble a heightened sense of separation and clarity"

This release follows albums of Beethoven's early and middle quartets, issued by the Tokyo String Quartet between 2005 and 2009, and while the Tokyo's personnel differs from past lineups, the group has maintained great consistency of tone, superb technique, and refined expression since its founding in 1969. The same warmth of feeling and burnished sonorities that are characteristic of the earlier Beethoven recordings are still found here, and the added benefit of multichannel DSD recording gives the ensemble a heightened sense of separation and clarity, so anyone who is unable to find the older box set will be amply rewarded with these polished renditions. As is always the case with performances of these revered works, connoisseurs will have their preferences for one or another ensemble's recordings, but because the Tokyo String Quartet ranks so highly in most experts' estimation, any comparisons that can be made are merely in degrees of excellence. Highly recommended.

Blake Sanderson at All Music[read full review]

Beethoven: The Late String Quartets (2010)

Beethoven

Tokyo String Quartet

Mastering Engineer: Brad Michel
Producer: Robina Young, Brad Michel
Recording Engineer: Brad Michel, Sara Clerk
Recording location:

American Academy of Arts & Letters New York, fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Oji Hall tokyo Japan

Recording Software: Pyramix
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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HMU857481.83: Beethoven: The Late String Quartets
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Tracks.
1.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - I. Maestoso - Allegro
Beethoven
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2.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - II. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto cantabile
Beethoven
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3.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - III. Scherzando vivace
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4.
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127 - IV. Finale
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5.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - I. Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo
Beethoven
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6.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - II. Allegro molto vivace
Beethoven
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7.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - III. Allegro moderato - Adagio
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8.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - IV. Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile
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9.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - V. Presto
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10.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - VI. Adagio quasi un poco andante
Beethoven
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11.
String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 - VII. Allegro
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12.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - I. Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro
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13.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - II. Presto
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14.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - III. Andante con moto ma non troppo
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15.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - IV. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai
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16.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - V. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo
Beethoven
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17.
"Fugue for string quartet in B-flat major ""Grosse Fuge"", Op. 133"
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18.
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 - VI. Finale. Allegro
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19.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - I. Assai sostenuto - Allegro
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20.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - II. Allegro ma non tanto
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21.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - III. Molto adagio
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22.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - IV. Alla Marcia, assai vivace
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23.
String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 - V. Allegro appassionato
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