Colorado String Quartet

Beethoven: 6 Quartets, Op. 18

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The Colorado Quartet is an American group that has been active in various locales, although rarely, it would seem, in Colorado. It took the daring step of embarking on a complete cycle of Beethoven's string quartets, recording for the small Parnassus label of Woodstock, NY, and its set of late quartets received considerable critical acclaim. One can echo that praise when it comes to this set of the six quartets of Op. 18, composed between 1798 and 1800, and closely related to Haydn's and Mozart's mature quartets. The thing to note, and it's a word of caution rather than a criticism, is that this is a Beethoven recording of a certain dispassionate type. If you prefer players who "stay out of the music's way," leaving aside the question of whether such a thing is really possible, this set deserves your strong consideration. Sample the angular melody at the beginning of the String Quartet in D major, Op. 18/3 (CD 1, track 9), which seems to strain at the boundaries of Classical string quartet texture: it is perfectly possible for musicians to emphasize the music's tension and ebullience, but first violinist Julie Rosenfeld plays it straight. In the set as a whole, the dispassionate approach has several consequences. It emphasizes, for example, the specific models of these quartets in Haydn's and Mozart's works, and some of these are explored in the booklet notes (in English only) by Michael Friedmann. And it favors the slow movements, whose melodies don't always stand up to more heated treatment; several of them here have a beautiful delicate quality. The engineering, from a theater at Bard College in the Hudson River valley, is straightforward and effective. A worthy throwback to an era in which string quartet playing tended toward the circumspect.

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