Beethoven: String Quartet in D, Op. 18 No. 3; String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven: String Quartets
WORKS: String Quartet in D, Op. 18 No. 3; String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132
PERFORMER: Endellion Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62196-2
Having been slightly lukewarm about the first instalment of the Endellion Quartet’s Beethoven cycle, I found much more to savour on this disc. Perhaps a change of venue from Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall to Ipswich’s Potton Hall has had some impact since the recorded sound, although still rather dry, seems to offer far more atmosphere.

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Certainly Op. 18 No. 3, presented here in an up-to-date edition that takes account of some fascinating discoveries with regards to Beethoven’s text, is given a performance that is both musically satisfying and technically immaculate. More importantly, the interpretation is alert to those precious moments of Beethovenian humour which can so easily be bypassed in other performances. I am thinking here particularly of the delightfully cheeky staccato phrasing of the slow movement’s second idea and the unexpectedly abrupt conclusion to the Finale Presto.

Op. 132 is of course a much darker work, and the Endellion’s non-vibrato sound at the opening immediately captures to perfection the music’s mysterious and uncertain quality.

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If the ensuing Allegro seems slightly restrained, given the impassioned nature of the musical material this ploy works in the long-term as the cumulative impact is all the more overwhelming. While the slow movement doesn’t quite radiate the spiritual intensity of the Takács Quartet’s highly praised recording on Decca, it is nonetheless very moving, and in the Finale the Endellions manage to effect the transition from darkness to light most convincingly. Erik Levi