Quartetto Italiano

Beethoven: The Late String Quartets; "Grosse Fuge"

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Originally issued on separate LPs in the late '60s, Quartetto Italiano's legendary recordings of Ludwig van Beethoven's late string quartets occupied a prestigious place in Philips' catalog and fully warranted reissue on CD for their technical acumen, intellectual clarity, and expressive depth. All serious string quartets aspire to play these monumental works, which have proved to be more influential than any others in their genre; it's fair to say that most groups wish their performances could at least be equal to Quartetto Italiano's, both in terms of staying power and sublime musicality. It's difficult to choose one opus over another, since each has a distinctive character that demonstrates Beethoven's extremely wide range of moods, and Quartetto Italiano's interpretations are magnificent across the boards, without a single low point. Philips' ADD sound is possibly the only sticking point, because these recordings sound a little cool and muted in comparison with contemporary digital recordings, and listeners who are accustomed to greater resonance and verisimilitude might find this set to be a little flat and veiled. Yet virtually all traces of analog hiss have been removed, and the practiced listener will still be able to appreciate the profundities of the music despite the slightly shallow reproduction.

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