Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Juilliard String Quartet
"Beethoven: String Quartet op. 59 no. 2" (Vinyl)

One of the mile markers every great string quartet must pass is a recording of the complete quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven.  Their scope is unique in breadth and challenge.  From his opus 18 (the sunset of classical traditions) to his (still) forward-looking late quartets, Beethoven used the string quartet as  laboratory of compositional techniques that give us an important look inside Beethoven's genius.

The Juilliard Quartet, an American staple since 1946, recorded this cycle in the 70's with Robert Mann, Earl Carlyss, Sam Rhodes and Joel Krosnick.

By the end of this listening adventure I'd love to be able to identify major string quartets by their stylings alone; I feel already I can identify some key differences between Juilliard and Emerson or Guarneri.  The sound of this quartet feels less unified, more a group of four individuals than four blended voices.  The sound of the lower strings doesn't seem to make any effort at matching the top (or vice versa) on this recording.  Not sure if that's a fault of this recording.

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