Busch Quartet (1930s) EMI 509 6552
It’s nearly 80 years since the Busch Quartet made their legendary recordings of Beethoven’s Late String Quartets, and it’s frequently stated that they have never been bettered.
With justification: there’s an extraordinary lack of self-advertisement in the playing, a sense of complete immersion in the composer’s intentions that is totally compelling.
These aren’t ‘interpretations’ as such, or even ‘performances’ in the modern sense – more acts of communion mediated by the amazingly self-effacing artists doing the playing. The sound is 1930s mono, but potently communicative.