BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132 – The Griller Quartet – Dutton

by | Aug 23, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132 – The
Griller Quartet – Dutton CDBP 9755 mono 45:49  (Distrib. Harmonia
Mundi)****:

Recorded 20 October 1950, the Griller Quartet’s reading of Beethoven’s
late masterpiece the A Minor Quartet Op. 132 (1825) makes a haunting
addition to the ensemble’s impressive body of chamber music literature.
From Colin Hampton’s opening cello passage, to the virtuoso forays from
Sydney Griller’s concertante violin, we are in the throes of emotional,
plastic materials which seem to coalesce as they proceed, weaving a
fabric at first plain only to the composer. The pursuant Allegro ma non
tanto recalls elements of the Eroica Symphony and the Pastoral, forcing
triple rhythms in duple time, as well as urging bagpipe sonorities over
a drone bass in the trio section. Bartok does not seem very far away
(he used to read Beethoven quartets as bedtime activity).

When the skittish minuet theme repeats, violinists Griller and O’Brien
combine for an more unearthly sound than before. The heart of the work,
the great Molto adagio–Andante in the Lydian mode, an anachronistic
form of F Major, certainly adumbrates much of the spiritual, yearning
quality in Mahler. Beethoven’s serene chorale periodically breaks out
into exuberant bits of dance, and the violin urges some intimate
variants of the Andante theme. The degree of hushed silence surrounding
the Griller’s intense reading is a presence in itself. Marvelously
paced, with no false or rushed step, this movement is a highlight track
for admirers for this premier British ensemble. The quick little march
that follows has a wiry recitative for Griller’s violin; then onward to
the rondo finale — a somewhat grave movement featuring five-bar phrases
for the cello. Clouds of melancholy imitation form, diminuendo, before
the sun bursts through, presto, to A Major. The dry, almost sec
approach of the ensemble has the effect of etching the daring
innovations of the composer deeply into one’s psyche. The exemplary
sonics  and absolute quiet of the restoration continue to win
Michael Dutton my awed appreciation.

–Gary Lemco

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