There was a time -- and it was not that long ago -- when the Amadeus Quartet was the gold standard for string quartets. It was not that its performances were technically impeccable -- there were occasional ensemble slips and intonation problems -- it was that its performances were intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually impeccable. Whatever was in the music -- especially if the music was from the Viennese High Classical period -- was in the performances and for many listeners from the late '40s through the late '70s, the Amadeus Quartet was the way Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven's sounded.
As this two-disc set of recordings from 1953 through 1957 demonstrates, the Amadeus was the Amadeus right from the start. The Haydn Quartet, Op. 74/1, has the wit and depth so characteristic of the composer. The Mozart K. 515 Quintet with Cecil Aronowitz on second viola has the grace and inspiration so characteristic of the composer. The Beethoven Grosso Fuge has the power and intellect and the Op. 35 Quartet has the humor and sublimity so characteristic of the composer. And the Schubert "Death and the Maiden" Quartet has the lyricism and pathos so characteristic of the composer. Indeed, the truly marvelous thing about these performances is how little one hears the Amadeus Quartet and how much one hears the composer. For all the individuality of Norbert Brainin, Siegmund Nissel, Peter Schidlof, and Martin Lovett, their dedication to the music in effect effaces their personalities and leaves only the music. Would that all musicians could say the same! Andante's half-century-old sound is clean and honest.