Quatuor Sine Nomine

Beethoven: The Middle String Quartets

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Unlike the Alban Berg or the Borodin Quartets, which take their names from their favorite composers, the Sine Nomine Quartet is without a name because of the players' expressed desire "to be open to all composers and their works." It's a name that suits this Swiss quartet from the city of Lausanne -- one does not so much hear its performances as hear through them to something bigger and deeper. It's not that the Sine Nomine doesn't have an interpretive stance -- it's that its interpretive stance is absolute objectivity. In this 2005 recording of Beethoven's five middle quartets, the Sine Nomine doesn't rush the Allegros or drag the Adagios, doesn't force the climaxes or drive the developments, and doesn't overdo the expressivity or overload the intensity. By scrupulously following the score, it lets Beethoven be Beethoven in all his heroic glory and deep humanity. So while it lacks nothing in technical polish, it is ultimately the Sine Nomine's directness and clarity that make the performances succeed. Although there are no doubt many recordings of Beethoven's middle quartets one should hear first, starting, perhaps, with the Alban Berg Quartet's magisterial recordings, the Sine Nomine's recordings are well worth hearing by those who know and love the works. Claves' sound is clear, cool, and pure.

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