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  Harmonia Mundi -
  HMU 807423/24 (2 discs)
  Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 59 No's 1-3 "Razumovsky" - Tokyo String Quartet
  Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 59 Nos. 1-3 "Razumovsky"

Tokyo String Quartet
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 5

Reviews: 3

Review by nickc December 1, 2005 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Bizzarely I was just going to log on and review this disc when I saw Beagle's review - thank God for democracy because I totally disagree!
These are some of Beethoven's greatest works - although people say his late stuff is more profound I have always found his middle period works more "human" and "lovable" than the sometimes abstruse utterances of his last five years. Listen to the famous opening of no. 1, a magnificent long-limbed striding theme on the cello that slowly works its way up the quartet to end up with the 1st. violin - or between 4'10" and 4'40" when the quartet "deconstructs" the theme - one of Beethoven's most magical moments! I first fell in love with no. 1 with the Lindsay's first recording and if my memory is correct their first movement was about 11'49" - the Tokyo are slightly quicker - but not like the Alban Berg who I felt rushed through in under 10 minutes.
Really the only tempo I would quibble with is the Allegretto of no.2 which could use a bit more fire at a slightly quicker speed - apart from that everything sounds just right.
The recording is up-close and full bodied with a slight emphasis on the upper frequencies though, as always, the cello comes through magnificently when required. It just astounds me that it could be given only one star as sound.
Highly recommended!

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Review by Beagle December 1, 2005 (3 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
With great reluctance, I must give this particular recording a Thumbs-Down. My reluctance is bolstered by a damning review by a radio critic whose opinion and pretensions to intellect I do not respect. But, ignorant git that he is, he is right: there is no spirit in this recording.

At first I thought that the Tokyo Quartet were 'taking it slow on the curves' like the Vegh Quartet. That's what it sounded like, first to me and later to my wife the cellist. We were both overwhelmed by the same sense of frustration and urge to shout 'Hey? Wakey-wakey! Get to work you guys...". We spun my old fave, the CBS Juilliard recording. The Juilliards were galloping -- we thought. A perusal of the timings showed both groups keeping virtually the same pace (with the Juilliards sometimes lagging).

My next theory was that the Tokyos were 'not punctuating their sentences', while the Juilliards were putting in plenty of double-underlines and exclamation-points. But a CAREFUL listen showed that the Tokyo was articulating Ludwig's sentences also....

That being said, the question remains: why does this Super recording lie flat in the speakers, like a three-day old fish on an abandoned wharf? I really can't imagine a professional quartet playing this flatly, and so I have a third theory. For reasons which seemed like a good idea at the time, the Sound Engineers compressed the dynamics -- all of them.

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Review by andrewb February 17, 2006 (0 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
These performances are good and the recording very clear, but this latter does, to my ears, have a slight harshness in the upper frequencies, which I do not expect to hear on SACD. Putting the CDs of the Talich Quartet on, I found much less detail but a warmer and more comfortable sound, and performances which find more depth and poetry than the Tokyo Quartet.

I have enjoyed these Tokyo Quartet recordings but am not sure that I shall want to purchase further instalments in this cycle unless that harshness from the upper reaches is ameliorated. The preformances, in this case, are not so good that they would make me want to buy them with anything less than the best recorded sound. There are too many excellent performances on CD for that. Hopefully, there will be soon be more versions of these quartets on SACD from which to choose.

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Works: 3  

Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59 No. 1 "Razumovsky"
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2 "Razumovsky"
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59 No. 3 "Razumovsky"