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  Supraphon -
  Beethoven: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 14 - Smetana Quartet
  Beethoven: String Quartet No. 12 in E flat major Op. 127, String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 131

Smetana Quartet
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
  Single Layer
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Submitted by Alexandre
Related titles: 3

Reviews: 1

Review by Lute October 3, 2012 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This review is for all 3 SACDs of Beethoven's string quartets nos.12-16 and Grosse Fuge performed by the Smetana Quartet (Supraphon COGQ-1013,1019, and 1027).

So much has been written and said about Beethoven's late quartets that I feel a little under qualified to write a review about them. Of course no single performance can do complete justice to them. Naturally, everyone will have their own personal favorite. But...I just want to say that these are fantastic performances of these seminal works.

Along with other great ensembles, such as the Busch, Barylli, Hollywood, Italiano quartets (just to name a few!!), the Smetana Quartet's performances of Beethoven's late quartets from the 1960s and 70s are legendary. This great Czech string quartet was formed in 1943 and, until their retirement, were among the top quartets in the world. Due to their virtuosity, I read one review that referred to this ensemble as the Berlin Philharmonic of quartets.

The Smetana Quartet's speeds in these masterworks of Beethoven are on the brisk side, for example their beautifully played Cavatina of No.13 takes 6'13" and is (rightly) followed by a powerful Grosse Fuge that plays for 15'50". Also, Not all repeats are observed which shortens playing times.. Some listeners will prefer slightly boarder tempi, but the Smetana Quartet's playing is lyrical and deliciously intense. This can be heard in the fast movements, such as the majestic opening movement of No.12 and the finale of No.14 which have plenty of attack and dramatic intensity. But, some of my favorite moments are to be found in their delicate and sensitive playing of the slow movements... not only the Cavatina but also their touching accounts of No.15's III. Molto adagio, and No.16's III. Lento assai ...and No.14's IV. Andante has a playful, elegant beauty.

The recordings took place between 1965 and 1971 and are consistent in quality. The sound is closely balanced, but truthful and natural. I have not heard the original LPs or redbook version, but from what I can tell these transfers have been successful. There is a little tape hiss during the movements. Some subtle noise reduction might have occurred during the transfer, though. It does not seem to be too heavy, so I do not feel it is anything to worry about. As with most SHM-CDs, the real winner is the sound image, which is lifelike, open and well-detailed, especially when compared to other "older" recordings or red book versions. However.. when compared to the best modern DSD recordings, the lower end is a little lean. It could be a little more robust. But again, nothing to worry about IMHO. Fortunately, the sound seems to improve as you raise the volume higher. The voices of the individual instruments come out clearly and vividly. These are only 2-channel recordings on single layer SACDs, but how wonderful those 2 channels sound!!

Simply a joy to listen to.

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Works: 2  

Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 12 in E flat major, Op. 127
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131