HAYDN: Three String Quartets, Op. 71, Nos. 1-3 (Vol. 20) – Auryn Quartet – Tacet 170, 68:03 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Laurence Vittes came to the same conclusions I have been reaching when reviewing the “companion” disc to this set, found here.  The Op. 71 and 74 sets were composed at one time in 1793 and initially appeared as two sets one year apart. However, as an integral whole they could hardly be more related; only an agreement with their dedicatee, Count Anton Georg Apponyi, whereas the composer gave him exclusive use of the quartets for one year, kept the six from appearing as such publication-wise. So when we listen to these two opuses we should be listening to both at once in order to apprehend the composer’s exclusive thoughts in this music.

I have been touting these recordings by the very well established Auryn Quartet in these and other pages since I first encountered them. Tacet is engulfing on a project with the Auryn to present a host of recordings covering a slew of composers, and this is the twentieth volume, number 11 of the 14 dedicated to Haydn. When it is finished it will no doubt be among the finest complete recordings of the Haydn quartets that we have, and easily the best sounding. Master recording engineer and Tacet founder and owner Andreas Spreer makes intelligent decisions about which microphones to use and what placement to engage, always willing to even look to the past if better equipment is available for a particular session and location.

This CD demonstrates the Auryn’s absolute control and understanding of the Haydn idiom – energetic but also luxuriantly able to manage the slow intimate moments that the composer supplies in abundance. If your collection is lacking the Haydn quartets in any number, this is the set to have.

— Steven Ritter