Dutton has been remastering
a number of the Griller Quartet’s Decca
recordings of late. Their Haydn and
Mozart are exemplary and can be found
on CDBP9702, 9717 and 9739 whilst the
Bloch and Dvořák
disc has long had a place on my shelves.
The Grillers were, alongside the London,
their illustrious predecessors as the
country’s leading Quartet, among the
finest Beethoven interpreters of their
This latest disc collates
one of the Op.18 set with Op.95 in performances
that demonstrate energy, dynamism and
timbral sensitivity in equal measure.
They catch the rough-hewn surface of
the opening Allegro of the D major and
whilst they also explore its corollary,
a refined lightness, they certainly
don’t stint the cragginess. Observant
of the qualifying con moto indication
they take the slow movement at a good,
forwardly moving tempo. It’s quite an
extrovert reading but also has plenty
of expression; the inner part writing
comes up very well. They take care of
accenting and matters of dynamics in
the third movement as well – these are
sharply etched and marvellously calibrated.
The F minor was recorded
seven months later but strangely it
has a slightly less open sound. In the
difficult opening Allegro the Grillers
manage to catch its variousness of mood.
The old Record Guide was none too pleased
by the Griller Beethoven recordings,
calling this one in particular "weak
in conception" and preferring to
dig out the Busch and the Léner
pre-War recordings. I’ve no quarrel
with that – they happen to be among
my reference recordings for any Beethoven
Quartet – but the editors of that particular
volume seriously misjudged the Grillers.
The second movement of Op.95 sports
a fugato of intensely withdrawn delicacy
and in the third movement they catch
precisely what Beethoven asks for –
as fast as possible ma serioso,
an injunction carried out to the letter.
Crisp bowing illuminates the finale,
with leader Sidney Griller on especially
dashing form, as well as a pervasive
sense of agitation and unsettled motion.
Dutton has dampened
down the Decca shellac crackle so that
these are very listenable transfers
indeed. I had a few uncomfortable moments
in the second movement of Op.18 No.3
when the noise suppression proved rather
intrusive. Otherwise you will find these
very acceptable. The timing is short
– which will be reflected in the price.