Kuijken String Quartet / Kuijken Ensemble

Beethoven: String Quartets, Op. 59 'Razumovsky'; String Quintet, Op. 29

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Familial chamber ensembles that manage to maintain a successful career seem to be more and more of a rarity nowadays. One noteworthy exception is the Kuijken Quartet, an ensemble made up of two generations of stellar string musicians. Most well-known for its period instrument, historical performance practice playing, it appears on this two-disc Challenge Classics set performing on modern instruments with less regard for what might be historically accurate and more what the musicians' "guts" tell them. This program features Beethoven's three Op. 59 "Razumovsky" Quartets, along with the sometimes overlooked Op. 29 String Quintet (for which Marleen Thiers, wife of the quartet's second violinist, joins in on the second viola part). While period practice may not be the primary goal here, the Kuijkens' keen musical insights still produce performances of staggering sophistication, detail, and vitality. One of the most appealing aspects of this set is the stunning, well-blended sound the four members produce, truly achieving the chamber music ideal of four instruments playing as one. Each of the members possesses a highly polished technique which together yields nearly flawless intonation, precise articulation, and a beautiful matching of vibrato across the score. The interpretations present the vigor and excitement of the quartets' outer movements along with the serene, powerful beauty of the inner Adagios in the first and second quartets and the quintet. With performances this moving and engaging, listeners will be left hoping the Kuijken Quartet continues with the remainder of Beethoven's quartets.

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