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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Quartet No.14 Op.131
String Quartet No.16 Op.135
Philharmonia Quartett Berlin
Recorded in the Andreaskirche, Berlin-Wannsee, 2001
THOROFON CTH 2466 [66.18]



All four members of the Philharmonia Quartet Berlin sit in emulation of another Philharmonia Quartet (of London), which in the 1940s was drawn from the ranks of that orchestra. The Berlin Quartet consists of eminent members of the Berlin Philharmonic - Daniel Srabrawa, principal concertmaster, second violin Christian Stadelmann, principal violist Neithard Resa and cellist Jan Diesselhorst. They’ve a track record of commitment to late Beethoven, having recorded Op.130 and the Grosse Fuge as well as an exemplary commitment to Shostakovich, Britten, Hindemith, Szymanowski, Reger and Schulhoff.

As one might expect they are tonally a well-matched quartet. They demonstrate instrumental finesse allied to clear ideas about textual clarity – try the opening movement of Op.131 for an instance of that, where the fugal subject is well delineated. The fourth movement Andante has elegance as well as gravity and the tempo is a good one, well sustained. They bring a sense of concentrated intensity to the brief but cosmic Adagio. The companion is Op.135 where a sense of balance, both instrumental and expressive is vital. They are fully in command of the polyrhythmic complexities of the Scherzo as indeed they are in the slow movement where they stress the cantante indication. Some might find the playing occasionally aloof, battles too easily won, but their clean-limbed approach makes for some stylish playing.

The recorded sound, in the Andreaskirche, Berlin-Wannsee, is fine; natural in perspective and not too resonant. The notes are in German, English and French and quote from such late nineteenth century figures as Hans Mersmann and Hugo Riemann – writers that English-speaking readers will be glad to meet.

Jonathan Woolf


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