Opus 18 needs little introduction as Beethoven’s supremely confident first step in total mastery of the Classical String Quartet. From the opening bars of Quartet No. 1 which bristle with curiosity and possibility to the wit and humour of Quartet No. 2 and the supressed energy and teasing harmonic uncertainty of Quartet No. 3, Opus 18 represents Beethoven’s only quartet contribution during his ‘first period’ and provides the listener with a tantalising glimpse of the extraordinary music that was to follow. The Eybler Quartet came together in 2004 to explore the works of the first century-and-a-half ofthe string quartet and plays on instruments appropriate to the period of the music it performs. The Toronto-based ensemble’s live performances have consistently garnered praise as 'glowing and committed', 'spirited' and 'lively and energizing'. The Eybler Quartet harnesses a unique combination of talents and skills: razor-sharp ensemble skills, technical prowess.
This recording, by two generations of musicians from the Kuijken family (Veronica, Sigiswald, Sara and Wieland Kuijken), along with Sigiswald's wife Marleen Thiers, was made with so-called 'modern' instruments. Although their name is generally linked with 'period performance practice', listeners should not expect or seek a deliberate, specific 'historic' tendency in this recording.
The young Austrian Minetti Quartett follow up their first two hänssler CLASSIC releases of works by Haydn and Mendelssohn with works from the pen of the Grand Master of the String Quartet: Ludwig van Beethoven. Two early works from Opus 18, the 4th in the tragic key of C minor and the 2nd in a serene G major, frame the stormy “Quartetto serioso” op 95 in F minor. The unprejudiced naturalness and the multifaceted articulation of these four musicians is presented to fullest advantage in these expressive works, once again showcasing the outstanding musicianship of this young quartet.
Following close on the heels of the mighty F major Quartet (featured in the first volume of this series along with Op. 59, No. 3), Beethoven’s Quartet in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2 could not be more different. Where the F major Quartet pursues its course with a leisurely breadth, the cries of the opening chords of the E minor and the whispers that follow confront a void. The real release comes only in the slow movement, which was clearly a significant piece for the composer, judging by his instruction ‘this piece is to be played with great feeling’. The battle of E minor and E major continues in the scherzo: its fractured waltz comes out into the light of the trio with one of the Russian themes Beethoven promised Count Rasumovsky he would insert into each of the quartets.
Few chamber music groups have as proud a history as the Smetana Quartet, or a history that evokes as much nationalistic passion. Founded during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the group's very existence was an anomaly during an era when any manifestation of Czech nationalism was outlawed. They survived into the post-Nazi era, and went on to an acclaimed international performing career, making some of the finest chamber music recordings of the 1950s and 1960s…