One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere

Special Offer
Complete Chopin
17 discs
Pre-order for £100


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

Works for Voice by György Kurtág


Best Seller

Symphony for solo piano

Chopin Piano Concerto No.1

Schubert Piano sonata

Schubert symphony No. 9

Katherine Watson (Sop)

From Severn to Somme


We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

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
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


cover image

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809) 27 String Quartets and the Seven Last Words on the Cross Full list of contents at end of review
Amadeus String Quartet
rec. 1963-78
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8116 [10 CDs; 52:44 + 61:13 + 59:55 + 59:51 + 51:25 + 59:08 + 66:30 + 60:27 + 64:08 + 52:29]

Experience Classicsonline

There have been a number of box sets devoted to the Amadeus Quartet of late. Some offer a range of work - there’s a DG retrospective that covers Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms for instance and its direct clone on Brilliant (see review). Other approaches target live broadcast performances. Some too provide the ancillary pleasure of more directly historical material.

This DG box presents familiar friends; the stereo recordings of Haydn quartets made between 1963 and 1978, and long since part of the quartet’s legacy on disc. It’s true to say that their 1950s recordings evinced a tauter rhythmic charge, but there are great riches in these later undertakings, ones that still work their magic on the listener.

I suppose it’s the sense of corporate weight, a sonorous and sometimes engulfing warmth, that most obviously characterises their Haydn performances; that and Norbert Brainin’s characteristic sound, and the promotion of a corporate refulgent pathos. The grandeur of this kind of conception can be auditioned in their The Seven Last Words recording in which the wide-spaced recording captures the richly vibrated ethos very successfully. There have always been strongly argued positions on their approach, but I think it’s fair to say that in the Op.54 set the Allegro con brio of the G major is sufficiently buoyant and not too ‘heavy’ or static. The same quartet’s finale is imbued with witty badinage – the rests are not, however, overplayed. Some may find the Adagio of Op.54 No.2 too unrelieved and airless, but whilst the long Largo cantabile of No.3 is certainly cantilevered it’s not without its own sense of internal rhythmic emphases. It’s certainly not static. Siegmund Nissel proves the old adage that a quartet is only as good as it second violin throughout this set, but seldom more so than in the case of the opening of Op.55 No.3 where he proves marvellously communicative and sensitive.

There is indeed a plethora of delightful and lastingly valuable things to admire and upon which to reflect. Try the pomposo element in the Allegretto of Op.64 No.1 and the rapt directness with associated ‘pathetic’ phraseology in the second movement of Op.64 No.2 – where the inner voices are warm and mellifluous. Or sample the sweetness and songfulness of the same quartet’s Menuetto. This gemütlich quality has often been brandished as a stick with which to beat the Amadeus and it’s true that a rival (complete) cycle made at roughly the same time – by the Aeolian (Decca) – promoted leaner sonorities, tighter vibratos and a collective tension that the Amadeus didn’t particularly aspire to. The affection that the Amadeus displayed – as in the slow movement of the Lark - was very much of an overtly expressive kind and could, on occasion, sound a touch milked, as perhaps it does in this instance.

The recorded acoustic clearly had something to do with it. It sounds even bigger in the Op.71 recordings and this tended to inflate the already lush and rich sound to bursting point; almost in fact to the status of a quasi chamber outfit. Despite the attention to lighter bow weight in the slow movement of Op.71 No.2 this particular disc (No.6) strikes me still as something of a disappointment. The Op.74 quartets are highly accomplished in their own way, textually quite dense but full of vibrancy and engaged colour, if not the ultimate in clearly etched rhythm. Even better is Op.76 where all six quartets are presented in echt Amadeus style – sonorous, and deftly lightening unison weight when necessary without relinquishing essential communicative power. The drones in the Emperor may not be as explicit as those of other practitioners but they are related to the material without undue exaggeration. There’s charm too, in the second movement of the Fifth particularly.

This sense of homogenised tonal unanimity, of a strongly vibrated expressive cantabile can be best appreciated in the Largo of Op.79 No.5 and for those who admire such things the lavish juice expended in the slow movement of Op.77 No.1 is either a reflection of admirable commitment or a generic timbral response: season according to taste.

What is not in doubt is the value and utility of a box such as this. These performances reflect the DNA of the performers as assuredly as the rather more ad hoc pre-war performances of the Pro Arte reflect theirs. In a pluralistic marketplace, with original instrument performances as well as those by, say, the Budapest Quartet on offer, there will always be a place for the Amadeus.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1 [52:44]
The Seven Last Words, Op.51 [52:44]
CD 2 [61:13]
String Quartet in G major, Op.54, no.1 (Hob.III:58) [19:35]
String Quartet in C major, Op.54, no.2 (Hob.III:57) [19:19]
String Quartet in E, Op.54 No.3 (Hob. III:59) [22:04]
CD 3 [59:55]
String Quartet in A, Op.55 No.1 (Hob.III:60) [16:17]
String Quartet in F minor, Op.55 No.2 "The Razor" (Hob.III:61) [24:36]
String Quartet in B flat, Op.55 No.3 (Hob.III:62) [18:46]
CD 4 [59:51]
String Quartet in C, Op.64 No.1 (Hob.III:65) [20:59]
String Quartet in B minor, Op.64 No.2 (Hob.III:68) [17:53]
String Quartet in B flat major, op.64, no.3, (Hob.III:67) [20:12]
CD 5 [51:25]
String Quartet in G, Op.64 No.4 (Hob.III:66) [16:52]
String Quartet in D major, Op.64, no.5 "The Lark" (Hob.III:63) [17:27]
String Quartet in E flat, Op.64 No.6 (Hob.III:64) [16:56]
CD 6 [59:08]
String Quartet in B flat, Op.71 No.1 (Hob.III:69) [20:30]
String Quartet in D, Op.71 No.2 (Hob.III:70) [16:50]
String Quartet in E flat, Op.71 No.3 (Hob.III:71) [21:36]
CD 7 [66:30]
String Quartet in C, Op.74 No.1 (Hob.III:72) [66:30]
String Quartet in F Op.74 No.2 (Hob.III:73) [21:43]
String Quartet in G minor Op.74 No.3 "The Rider" (Hob.III:74) [21:35]
CD 8 [60:27]
String Quartet in G major Op 76 no.1 (Hob.III:75) [19:28]
String Quartet in D minor Op.76 no.2 (Hob.III:76) "Fifths" [19:37]
String Quartet in C major Op.76 no.3 (Hob.III:77) "Emperor" [21:14]
CD 9 [64:08]
String Quartet in B flat major Op.76 no.4 (Hob.III:78) "Sunrise" [22:39]
String Quartet in D major Op.76 no.5 (Hob.III:79) [18:46]
String Quartet in E flat major Op.76 no.6 (Hob.III:80) [22:32]
CD 10 [52:29]
String Quartet in G major Op.77 no.1 (Hob.III:81) [19:56]
String Quartet in F major Op.77 no.2 (Hob.III:82) [21:41]
String Quartet in D minor Op.103 (Hob.III:83) - uncompleted [10:41]

Great riches that still work their magic on the listener… see Full Review


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

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.