Miró Quartet

Beethoven: Opus 59

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The Miró Quartet, with roots at Ohio's Oberlin Conservatory, has specialized in straight Germanic repertory of the 19th century. It has less competition in that field than it would have had formerly, but it in no way plays it safe: the Beethoven interpretations are daring, a bit ragged at times, and often immensely exciting. The group's style fits the three "Razumovsky" quartets of Beethoven, Op. 59, Nos. 1-3, especially well. These works, pure products of Beethoven's middle period, distill the emotional tumult of that period down to compact structures and contrapuntal gestures, with fugal material present in the finales and given a tremendous weight of emotional assertion. It benefits from being played with an intensity that seems almost to boil over at times, and that's what it gets from the Miró players. Sample the opening movement of the String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59/1, on disc one, where the group pushes the tempo toward the upper limits and adds on strong accents and attacks throughout. It's a wild ride, matched by hair-trigger slow movements and psychologically edgy scherzos. The music coming out of American conservatories, frankly, needs less safety and more of the spirit you hear here; even if you don't like everything about it, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Sound from a University of Texas recital hall is plain.

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