Leipziger Streichquartett

Beethoven: String Quartet E minor, Op. 59/2; String Quartet F minor, Op. 95

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First, what a terrific coupling! Having both Beethoven's minor-keyed middle period quartets together, the concentrated fury of the E minor Op. 69/2 followed by the controlled violence of the F minor Opus 95, makes for a good, strong dose of Beethoven in a big, bad mood. Second, what terrific performances! The Leipziger Streichquartett has released a huge number of discs featuring repertoire from Haydn through Berg and from Ives to Cage, but it always seemed most comfortable and most at home in the core quartet repertoire, and this Beethoven effort proves straight, sure, and overwhelmingly compelling. Yet these are subtle and nuanced performances as well. Not only is the driven Allegro that opens the E minor distinctly different in tone and intent from the relentless Allegro con brio that opens the F minor, but the Molto adagio of the E minor captures the infinitesimal gradations between rapture and repose, while the Allegretto ma non troppo of the F minor catches the cunning blend of ease and disquiet. Third, what terrific sound! Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm's digital recording puts the listener about 10 feet away from the players in an acoustic space so real it's tangible. Anyone looking for a first recording -- or a 50th recording -- of these works need not hesitate.

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