Quartetto Italiano

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

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If beauty is truth and truth beauty, then the Quartetto Italiano's late-'60s, early-'70s cycle of the complete Beethoven string quartets is possibly the most truthful cycle ever recorded because it is certainly the most beautiful cycle ever recorded. No quartet has ever played with such consummate beauty of tone, such ideal intonation, and such superb ensemble as the Quartetto Italiano. In the most strenuous passages, in the most awkward, in the most excruciating passages, the Italiano is always and everywhere transcendentally beautiful. The "early" quartets bring out all the high-Classical poise and elegance of the works, expressing the strong emotions of the young Beethoven in performances of graceful beauty. The "middle" quartets are powerfully muscular and as powerfully intellectual, balancing the heart and mind of the mature Beethoven in performances of exquisite beauty. The "late" quartets are deeply emotional and profoundly spiritual, transcending the duality of heart and mind in the sublime beauty of the interpretations. And Philips' stereo sound is nearly as beautiful as the Italiano's tone and certainly as truthful as any recording could possibly be in capturing the greatness of these interpretations. One of the two or three greatest sets of the Beethoven quartets ever recorded.

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