Tokyo String Quartet

Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets

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From 1969 to 2013, the Tokyo String Quartet was one of the world's finest chamber ensembles, and its criticially acclaimed recordings for Harmonia Mundi are still regarded as landmark achievements. The complete string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven were recorded between 2005 and 2008 in DSD, and each audiophile release received plaudits for the group's balanced playing and the superb interpretations that rivaled past performances, notably an earlier set on RCA. Harmonia Mundi has released the second complete cycle on eight SACDs in a sturdy box set, and the listener with a keen eye for a bargain will quickly snap up this affordable package. The performances are marvelous for their intense feeling and warmth, and Beethoven's expressions -- from the Classical insouciance and elegance of the early sets, through the innovation and drama of the middle quartets, to the profound depth and serene beauty of the late masterpieces -- are met throughout with understanding and skill. The sound of these recordings gives the musicians close-up presence and great clarity, particularly in the early quartets that were recorded at Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in New York and the middle quartets, recorded at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California, though the resonant acoustics in Oji Hall, Japan, give something of a booming sound of the late quartets, so some volume adjustments are needed.

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