Budapest Quartet

Schubert: String Quintet; Brahms: 3 String Quartets

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Recorded for American Columbia between 1941 and 1954, the performances here by the Budapest Quartet of Schubert's lone String Quintet and Brahms' three string quartets are infused with as much unrestrained romanticism as the works can bear. Despite its name, the Budapest Quartet was at this point made up of four Russians, whose playing here is steeped in that county's sumptuously expressive tradition. Thus the group's vibrato is lush, the sonorities opulent, the tempos flexible, and the interpretations far more directly emotional than nearly all later groups. For modern listeners, this plus the group's tendency to slip out of tune, may prove off-putting. But for listeners either used to this approach or willing to suspend contemporary prejudices, this two-disc set will be immensely rewarding. Schubert's quintet's depths are deeper in the Budapest's performances, particularly in the probing Adagio, while the emotional impact of the outer movements in Brahms' quartets can be shattering, especially in the relentless drive of the C minor Quartet's concluding Allegro. David Hermann's transfers are real and honest and not much disfigured by the actual recordings' obvious antiquity, and anyone who loves the repertoire is urged to at least try this set.

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