> The Budapest String Quartet: Haydn - Beethoven [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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The Budapest String Quartet
Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)

Quartet in D Major Op 64 No 5 The Lark
Quartet in D Major Op 76 No 5
Trio No 1 in G Major Hob XV;25 – Rondo all’Ongarese
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Quartet in E Flat Major Op 16
Budapest String Quartet (omit Alexander Schneider in the Beethoven Quartet)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano
Recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium of The Library of Congress, Haydn Quartets 1940 and 1941, Trio April 1955, Beethoven Quartet April 1955
BRIDGE 9067 [64’03]


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Bridge have here dug back to the very start of the Budapest Quartet’s residence at The Library of Congress in the live performance of Haydn’s Op 64 No 5, The Lark. This was their official debut, even though some concerts had been given a couple of years before their term began – it was to last for twenty-two years until 1962 when they handed on to the Juilliard Quartet. Sound quality is good if a little necessarily boxy – the Coolidge Auditorium wasn’t an overtly charitable acoustic but did confer qualities of clarity of sound to compensate for the lack of bloom. There are hints of overloading now and then at forte passages but nothing majorly problematical follows. Whilst they don’t play the exposition repeat in the first movement of The Lark theirs is a vibrant beginning though it’s not as textually clear as the commercial recording, made with the excellent and under appreciated Edgar Ortenberg as second violinist. The tumbling, coiling and quickening violins in the finale are agile and pleasurable but there is also the added frisson of a live recording and a little scrabbling around in the ensemble here as well.

The Op 76 No 5 Quartet dates from March 1941 and is occasionally compromised by austerity and brusqueness but the Largo is raptly played and ends in touching simplicity. The centrepiece of the disc is the Beethoven Quartet for piano and strings with Mieczyslaw Horszowski, a frequent collaborator in the 1950s. The Op 16 is perhaps as well, if not better, known in its guise as a quartet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. Horszowski was clearly taken by the string arrangement since he was to make two commercial recordings of it – with Alexander Schneider (absent at the time from the Budapest Quartet of which he was second violinist), Milton Katims and Frank Miller recorded in 1953, two years before this 1955 live Library of Congress performance and again in 1962 with Roisman, Kroyt and Mischa Schneider of the Budapest. Freely flowing, robust and flexible, the slow movement is especially notable but the quartet is equally adept at pointing out the humorously stern turns of phrases in the Rondo finale – which, in addition, receives an animated and sweeping reading. The concluding piece comes from the same concert – Roisman – he’d now finally dropped the final "n" from his surname – Mischa Schneider and Horszowski himself having some fun in the Gypsy Rondo.

Jonathan Woolf


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