One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


Buy through MusicWeb for £17 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

This DVD is FREE if you purchase the complete Beethoven Quartets on CD - see special offer


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Quartets Live:
DVD 1: F, Op. 18 No. 1 (1798-1800); F, Op. 14 No. 1 (arr. of piano sonata Op. 14 No. 1, 1798-99); F, Op. 59 No. 1, “Razumovsky” (1806); G, Op. 18 No. 2 (1798-1800); E flat, Op. 74, “Harp” (1809); C sharp minor, Op. 131 (1826).
DVD 2: B flat, Op. 18 No. 6 (1798-1800); Op. 130 in B flat, Op. 130 (1825-26, includes Grosse Fuge, Op. 133).
Wihan String Quartet (Leoš Cepický, Jan Schulmeister (violins); Jirí Žigmund (viola); Aleš Kasprík (cello)).
rec. live, Convent of St Agnes, Prague, October 2007 – March 2008.
Includes bonus short documentary about the Wihan Quartet [30:00].
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6107 [2 DVDs: 179:58 + 104:31]

Experience Classicsonline

Recorded in Prague’s beautiful Convent of St Agnes, this is a wonderful document of a significant segment of the core quartet repertoire. Collectors may already own the Alban Berg Quartet complete Beethoven Quartets on DVD (EMI: 3 38573 5, 3 38586 9 and 3 38595 9). This set, although by no means as complete - and including the transcription of the Piano Sonata Op. 14 No. 1 - acts as a useful and thoroughly enjoyable complement.
The first of the Op. 18 set introduces, in its first movement, the great vim and vigour of the Wihan Quartet; just as importantly, the slow movement is gloriously expressive. Disembodied sections are especially memorable, while held-breath silences and dramatic outbursts point towards the later Beethoven. There is little to add, in fact, to my comments on this performance in the CD version, except to say it that is additionally atmospheric to watch them in action in such lovely surroundings. The CD version did not include the composer’s transcription of the Piano Sonata in E, Op. 14 No. 1. Beethoven transposes the piece into F. Any pianist will attest to the fact that the piano sonata almost feels like a quartet reduction, anyway. Indeed the piece works beautifully when played by quartet. The Wihans scamper around effortlessly in the first movement, while the central minuet/scherzo hybrid is superbly shady. The finale is technically astonishing from all four players.
The first “Razumovsky” quartet shows the first signs of weakness. There is little sense of the great here, but signs of technical strain are intermittently present. My preferred DVD version of this remains the Takács Quartet on Decca (coupled with Schubert “Death and the Maiden” and Haydn’s “Bird”, 074 3140). I concur absolutely with Brian Wilson in his review when he says that “in the final analysis, the sheer beauty of the playing wins over the toughness to an extent which I thought came down just on the wrong side of this balancing act”. The Wihan Quartet finds some energy in the Scherzo, but without the vital sense of Beethovenian struggle. Similarly, the slow movement’s polar extremes are not far enough apart, so that the beauty of tone (which is lovely) masks an unwillingness to go far enough inside, while the outbursts remain somewhat held back. The finale is again rather weak, never quite connecting with the dynamic spirit of the music. The result is several “sags” in the structure.
The playing order appears designed to emphasise the Wihan’s connection with the early quartets, because after the first “Razumovsky”, the open-air G Major of Op. 18 No. 2 comes as a breath of fresh air. The Adagio cantabile begins in glorious fashion and shows the Wihan at its best; similarly the cheeky Scherzo.
The “Harp” is given an expressive performance which serves to underline any moments of modernity, thus linking it forward to the late quartets; actually, it is the great Op. 131 that stumps up next. The Wihan brings great charm to the first movement passages that generate the quartet’s nickname, too. The calm of the slow movement is balanced by the fiery scherzo - the Wihan seems particularly on this movement’s wavelength. By emphasising the charm of the finale’s main theme, the Wihan succeeds in bringing out the contrasts found in this piece more than most. A most rewarding reading.
The great C sharp minor is a challenge for any quartet. All credit to the players for locating the disturbing undercurrents to the first movement so accurately. For a young quartet, they seem to be able to enter the late Beethoven world well and if they do not quite enjoy the communion demonstrated by, say, the Alban Berg Quartet, they demonstrate astonishing maturity. I do not quite enjoy the lilt of the second movement as much as does my colleague Patrick C. Waller; I find them quite earthbound, but the slower movements remain beautifully expressive. And while I agree with my colleague that the central variations are splendidly rendered, the Wihan cannot come near to trumping the excellent Colorado Quartet on Parnassus, for example - a set I recommend you try.
The second DVD begins with Op. 18 No. 6 in a delightful reading. The delicacy of the slow movement is particularly noteworthy, as are the fresh dance rhythms of the third movement. The famous “La melancolia” that opens the finale is beautiful. If the drama is not quite raw enough later in the same movement, this remains a good, live interpretation of Op. 18 No. 6.
Finally, the great Op. 130. The second movement Alla tedesca is a true Presto, and there is some tremendously characterful articulation in the next movement. And yet this is not great late-Beethoven playing. There are moments when one wonders whether passages have been fully thought through – Beethoven challenges perceptions of phrase, harmony and structure everywhere, and it takes many decades to get them all fully under the skin. The interplay of the “alla tedesca” is beautifully managed. Once again I find myself in agreement with Patrick Waller, here in regard to the tempo of the Cavatina - a tad too fast to fully do justice to the movement’s magnificent richness. Good to hear the “Grosse Fuge” at the end. The Wihan Quartet gives its all to project the rugged and the barren, the two predominant areas this piece addresses.
In his review of the CD set of the Op. 18 Quartets, Brian Wilson refers to Nimbus’s copious notes; no such luck here, I’m afraid, with no insert whatsoever. There is a documentary, though, as an extra, which one must suppose acts in lieu.
Camera angles include one for all four players which includes the first few rows of the audience, a shot which reveals the high microphone placement in front of the quartet, and appropriate solo shots.
The “extra” is a fascinating and expertly produced and directed subtitled Czech film that outlines the Wihan Quartet’s origins via recollections from the players themselves, as well as giving rehearsal footage and character portraits of each player. Some of the statements are controversial - one particular one about why no female quartet can last more than a decade springs to mind - but that was probably the idea. There are also glimpses into the members’ private lives (the second violin seems to collect model elephants while the violist reveals his enthusiasm for Czech folk music) and each member explains how he ended up playing the instrument he does.

Colin Clarke

This DVD is FREE if you purchase the complete Beethoven Quartets on CD - see special offer


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1





Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.