Brentano String Quartet

Beethoven: The Late String Quartets, Opp. 135 & 132

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The Brentano String Quartet released its first Beethoven album on Aeon in 2011, presenting exceptional performances of the String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 127, and the String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131. This follow-up CD is no less remarkable, because the ensemble continues its foray into the late quartets with the String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, and the last in the series, the String Quartet in F major, Op. 135, playing with the same balance of independent voices and unity of purpose. Despite appearing toward the end of Beethoven's career, when he is usually categorized as a Romantic composer, these works are Classical in their orientation, and the equal involvement of the musicians in repartée is a distinguishing feature that the Brentano Quartet exploits to best advantage. Yet there are many places in these works where they must play either in unison or as a single instrument with homophonic textures, and their alacrity and smoothness in switching roles is notable. The sound of the recording is quite close, giving the group great presence and clear details, while also capturing every sound they make, including humming and breathing. While this is a minor annoyance, listeners should still appreciate the depth of the interpretations and the excellence of the playing, which make the incidental noises forgivable.

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