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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 132 by The Emersons

From:

Chris Bonds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 21 Mar 2000 18:13:15 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (45 lines)

Pablo Massa wrote:

>I've bought, some months ago, a CD containing Beethoven's op. 59/3 and
>op. 132 performed by the Emerson Quartet (DG, 1997, Centenary Collection
>[ ugh, boys, what a faces!]).  Have you heard it?.  ...  Respecting op.
>132, I find the performance very strange (perhaps, because I'm accustomed
>to older versions, like Hungarian, Fitzwilliam or Alban Berg's).  It's
>sometimes too cold (i.e.  the modal sections of the Adagio, the central
>section of the 2nd.  movement), but sometimes great (i.e.  the finale of
>1st.  movement, the "neue kraft fuhlend" sections of the Adagio, or the
>last movement).  Also, I find strange the soloistic mania of the first
>violin in some passages I would like some comments.

Ah!  A topic of real interest to me since I "invested" in the complete
quartets as recorded by the Emerson.  I will keep them simply as an example
of how NOT to play this repertoire.  After reading this post I listened to
the beginning of the "Heiliger Dankgesang" by the Emerson, then to the
Borodin Quartet (post-Dubinsky), and finally to the Budapest's April 13-14,
1942 recording in Liederkranz Hall, New York.  The Emerson, heard first,
struck me as uninvolved.  This is a phenomenon I've observed listening to
other selections in the set.  There is a distinct lack of warmth, and my
impression is they are trying really hard to play in tune.  (I read a
remark by someone a long time ago that they had to do many retakes in the
studio, trying to get the intonation right--that could be influencing my
hearing of course!!) Very calculated playing, and it kills this piece.
The Borodin on the other hand is a worthy performance, but if you have not
heard the old Budapest, you really must.  It is on "Masterworks Heritage"
along with Opp.  127, 131, and 135.  the minuet from op. 18/5 is included
as filler.  Barcode no. is 0-074646 287323, Sony Classical MH2K 62873.
They actually seem to be taking it a bit faster than the others, but what
impresses me about their playing is that it combines real feeling with a
rare perfection of ensemble and intonation.  They also know how to use
vibrato, which seems to have eluded the Emersonians.  Sound is 40s mono
of course, but is not really bad.

Other worthy recordings would include the Quartetto Italiano, Guarneri
Quartet, Vegh Quartet, Alban Berg Quartet.

An addendum to my reply:
The slow movement of Op. 132 as recorded by Emerson: 17:50. Borodin
(Virgin Classics): 17:36. Budapest April, 1942: about 16:07. Yet they
don't sound rushed. It's true, though that the later Budapest recordings
are slower.

Chris Bonds

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