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"If you collect Beethoven quartet recordings this is a happy time, with excellent new cycles from the Prazák Quartet (Praga), the Takacs (Decca), and this latest release, to name only three. As anyone who has heard the Auryn Quartet′s Schubert recordings will attest, this is an exceptional group, sporting all of the qualities of superior chamber ensembles: a keen sense of rhythm, the ability to phrase as one, and an engaging sense of the music′s ongoing dialog among the players. All of these virtues are very much in evidence here, combined with a dynamism and drive that Beethoven′s music particularly demands.
The fact that all six quartets fit onto two discs in their numerical order gives some indication of what to expect: fleet tempos, but also incisive accents and plenty of energy. In the B-flat quartet (No. 6) for example, the dialog between upper and lower strings in the first movement has real spontaneity, and in the finale the contrast between the melancholy opening and the main body of the movement, with its seasick chromatic inner lines, is especially sharp--the tempo (as Beethoven asks) closer to Allegro than Allegretto. The group perfectly judges the relationship between the curious inner movements of the C minor quartet (No. 4), catching the "scherzo" quality of its purported slow movement particularly well. They also know how to relax into Beethoven′s more effusive inspirations, clearly relishing the Adagio affetuoso ed appassionato of the F major quartet (No. 1), as well as the lovely, truly singing Andante cantabile in No. 5.
If there is any criticism, it has to be said that the quartet′s overall timbre is not as smooth as, say, the great Czech ensembles (Talich or Prazák), who manage just as much vitality while maintaining a more velvety melodic surface. It may be that a touch of period practice has rubbed off on these players, though I want to stress that their sound never becomes rough or ugly, as for example characterizes the Lindsay′s grotesque slashing and hacking in their recently completed second ASV cycle. It′s valid both for Beethoven and his models, Mozart and (especially) Haydn, and you may in any case just find yourself swept up in the infectious enthusiasm of the playing, as well as seduced by Tacet′s state-of-the-art, crystal clear sonics. I look forward to the continuation of what promises to be an outstanding cycle."
David Hurwitz

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