BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2; String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3; String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat Major, Op. 74 “Harp” – Budapest String Quartet – Biddulph

by | May 10, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2; String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3; String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat Major, Op. 74 “Harp” – Budapest String Quartet

Biddulph 80221-2,  73:30 (Distrib. Albany) ****:

Restorations from 1935-1938 from the HMV archives of the Budapest String Quartet, whose personnel shifted during this era to form the Russian ensemble which reigned supreme in chamber music for another thirty years. For the inscriptions from 1935 (Op. 18, No. 3) and 1936 (Op. 74), the violist is the last of the original Hungarian players, Istvan Ipolyi. When he departed in the summer of 1936, his replacement was Boris Kroyt (in Op. 18, No. 2), a Russian who joined first violin Joseph Roisman and the brothers Schneider. The directness of attack, the clean lines, the sparkling interior work between Alexander Schneider’s second violin and Ippolyi’s viola, all illuminate Beethoven’s frothy, occasionally plaintive scores of the early period. Tempos can be quite brisk, as in the finale of the Op. 18, No. 2 (1 June 1938), but the interior, steady pulsation is true to the classical style. The canny sense of purpose, as the lines pass in succession in the Presto of Op. 18, No. 3, quite astounds one, even after seventy years. Beethoven’s witty dynamic gait shines in the Allegro (Scherzo) of the Op. 18, No. 3. While I always find Roisman a bit reticent as a solo concertante player, his articulation is a model of its kind, nurtured in the modernist literalist tradition. Transfers by Rick Torres for the Op. 18, No. 2 are supremely quiet; there is more surface hiss in the restoration of Op. 18, No. 3.

The balance of Beethoven’s declamatory and lyrical styles in the D Major features nice adjustments in tone quality and color projection, especially in the opening Allegro’s development section.  The Andante con moto could serve as a demonstration piece for the lush tapestry of sound and homogeneous tone color the ensemble could boast; Mischa Schneider’s cello has a deep, organ sonority, often acting a tonic to the nasal tone from Roisman, as in the Presto of the D Major. The most obvious concession to Romanticism comes in the form of the E-flat Quartet (27 April 1936), where Ipolyi’s Hungarian style occasionally makes its presence known. The basic pulse is rather dry in this reading, but the opening up of the harmony in pizzicati and suspended notes proves a ravishing effect. The different applications of vibrato by the players is either a fundamental difference of approach among them or a decision to give variety to Beethoven’s palette. Supremely quiet surfaces in this fine transfer. The Adagio of the E-flat Quartet might be a valediction for the passing of the Budapest Quartet to a new incarnation with Ipolyi’s imminent leave-taking; certainly the world, too, was in a state of upheaval and turmoil, even as this disc celebrates a miraculous ensemble in transition.

— Gary Lemco

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