Beethoven's influence over the string quartet was profound; in his hands, the genre acquired a new significance, becoming a powerful vehicle for the expression and exploration og an inner world. Featured in this box set is the Alban Berg Quartett's acclaimed recordings of the complete cycle, a showcase of the group's accomplished artistry and seamless ensemble playing.
Simon Rattle has recorded a lot of 19th century music and most of the results have been dismal. There is little to recommend by Rattle in pre-20th century repertoire. A few Haydn symphonies, some pretty good Brahms, bits of Mahler, Ein Heldenleben by Strauss which is just at the cusp of the 20th century. Alright, so Rattle is not the conductor to go to for the great classics. However, when he records modern music, he seems fully in tune with it's sound and style, plus he has less competition on the market to boot.
Frode Berg plays six-string electric and acoustic bass with zeal on Dig It! (Nagel-Heyer). Tenor saxophonist Petter Wettre sounds somewhat bland and regressive on the band’s rendition of “Giant Steps” but is quite spirited and exuberant on “41b” and “Hocum,” both penned by group pianist Roy Powell. Wettre is even more energized on Berg’s “Sir Nuke” and “I’m Gone.” The Norwegian quartet nicely handles bossa nova on “Another Song,” one of five Berg compositions on the CD. Berg’s unit sounds loose and relaxed on almost every cut-the Coltrane anthem excepted.
If you don't already have any recordings of Beethoven's late string quartets, by all means get this one by the Alban Berg Quartet. There hasn't been a set to equal it since it was originally released in a different configuration in the early '90s - the Emerson's overly enthusiastic but not especially insightful set? oh, come on! - and there hadn't been many to equal it before the '90s, only the Quartetto Italiano's wonderfully balanced and incredibly lovely set, the Quatuor Végh's supremely intense and transcendentally sublime set, and the Berg's own earlier, extremely concentrated and austerely passionate studio set.