Bernstein delivered a powerful and now legendary live performance of Beethovens String Quartet Op. 135 transcribed for String Orchestra and performed by the Vienna Philharmonic. For the first time ever this performance is now being released on DVD and Blu-ray. Another definitive Bernstein performance debuting now on both mediums is the enigmatic maestros reading of Haydns Missa in tempore belli, filmed live in concert at Ottobeuren in 1984, using to maximum effect the deeply impressive setting of the monasterys magnificent Baroque basilica.
Writing in 29:4 about the Hagen’s fine CD accounts of Beethoven Quartets Nos. 12 and 15, I noted two salient features of its approach: a sonority that in its freedom from lushness and excessive vibrato echoes (without duplicating) “period” sonority; and a style suggestive of how the music is far closer to the composer’s middle period than we often think. In a similar vein, this is a tough, aggressive No. 16, yet one tempered by delicacy where apt and projected with sensitivity to the music’s pointed humor—a performance style that one probably was not likely to encounter 50 years ago. And fine though the Beethoven is, the Mozart may be even better, as commanding and sensitive account of the work as I have ever heard. For one thing, Sabine Meyer is superb, a true virtuoso who is capable of rendering the music’s gentler moments with a tender delicacy that is as arresting as her rapidly articulated runs in which every note is given its clearly articulated due.
As a viola player and dedicated chamber musician, Sally Beamish has had ample opportunity to acquaint herself with the string quartet genre. The Beethoven C minor Quartet on this disc she first played when she was 14. Thirty years later, when commissioned by the Brodsky Quartet to write a work inspired by Beethoven's Op. 18, this is the one that caught her imagination. The result is String Quartet No.2, composed immediately after a visit to California in 2000. Inspired by two bridges – Golden Gate in San Francisco and a Californian rock formation called Natural Bridges – Beamish uses themes …….
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.
“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.
”… an outstanding project of landmark proportions…MDG has produced an excellent warm, intimate, life-sized recording. The composer provides his customarily thorough and enlightening notes … Highly recommended.” (Fanfare)