it took Johannes Brahms fourteen years and more than twenty attempts
to produce the first string quartets that he deemed worthy of
publication speaks volumes about the composer both as a self-critical
perfectionist, and a man who recognized the weight of tradition
and his own place in it. We as listeners can be nothing but grateful
for his tenacity, as the resultant works are perfection; masterpieces
full of the gravitas of so serious a musical mind, and
rich with a beauty of melody and harmony that is surely unsurpassed
by any composer of his era.
Verdi Quartet give us performances that are as near to perfection
as can be either imagined or wished for. Completely aware of the
symphonic structure of these works, these are performances that
are completely thought through, each new theme and its development
unfurled for us at the perfect pace, with a flawless sense of
melodic line and contour, with spotless intonation and fluid ensemble.
I have often held the Emerson String Quartet as the standard by
which all other such ensembles should be judged, but I do believe
that the Verdi have proven themselves equal if not superior with
these impeccable renditions.
opening movement of the c minor quartet is so solidly played,
that one quickly forgets that he is listening to only four instruments.
Symphonic in its concept, the Verdi perform this work with a lush
and vibrant tone, yet they never push their instruments beyond
their limits. The attention to detail, especially where the famous
Brahmsian inner voices are concerned can at times take one’s breath
away. The lyrical slow movements are at times tender, at others
melancholy but always sweet with reflection and beauty. The closing
allegro is ripe with energy and contrapuntal passages are played
with the care one would give to a Bach fugue.
a minor quartet receives an equally splendid reading with all
one could ask for in terms of structure, line, balance and intonation.
Of particular beauty is the lyrical, song-like second movement
that is played with such tenderness as to carry the listener into
some otherworldly memory of a past joy.
gushing you say? Perhaps so, but there is much here that deserves
it. Not since the Emersons released their near-perfect Ravel/Debussy
set some years ago on DG have I heard such fine playing. Hänssler’s
production values are of the first order, here producing recordings
of superb balance and clarity of tone. Couple that with a fine
booklet essay in multiple languages and an attractive cover design,
you have a package that is a winner through and through. No lover
of fine chamber music should be without this disc. Recommended
without a moment’s hesitation.