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"These two wonderful quartets have been audiophile touchstones ever since the Amadeus Quartet (three of them, anyway) and Clifford Curzon recorded them for Decca in the 1950s. Those performances were full of personality, charm and fire, and the sound (at the time) seemed alive and rich in color (today, it sounds a little harsh and aggressive). Along the way there have been fine recordings by many illustrious ensembles, on both modern and original instruments, of which the best purely in terms of sound may have been the musically limpid RCA version with the Guarneri Quartet and Artur Rubinstein.
Now, from the German audiophile label Tacet, comes a version that banishes the competition, combining the musical sparkle and sparkle of the early Decca version with the sumptuous sonic radiance of the RCA. The sound, in fact, is so clear and natural that it is like being in the room with the musicians. Operating at moderate speeds, the way the young Austrian pianist Markus Schirmer rolls out phrases as if they were pearls, the way he illuminates the music with a luminous inner elegance, and the way he occasionally adorns the music with ornaments of exceptional originality and delight, leaves no doubt that, for this one release at least, here is a major talent. This is not to say that the very excellent Gaede Trio takes a mere supporting role, for they play as gloriously as on their Tacet recordings of Mozart’s String Trio, KV 563, and their extremely gorgeous transcription of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
I reviewed the 44.1 CD version (numbered just plain 116), but it is hard to imagine anything more musically and sonically satisfying than this CD. Thomas Seedorf’s curious liner notes are quite endearing, especially in an English translation that seems like a gentle parody of German syntax. Ed.: I’ve just auditioned the surround DVD-A, and whether a listener would consider it more musically and sonically satisfying depends on how open they are to the alternative use of the acoustic space made by producer Andreas Spreer. He works from the idea that any sound-carrier is a synthetic product and feels that using the surround field to place the listener in the middle of the performance is more interesting and involving. Thus on the first of these quartets we have the viola at the center speaker, the piano on the right side, the violin on the left speaker and the cello on the left rear surround speaker. For the second quartet the violin/cello and the piano change places. Personally I’m beginning to get used to this, find it much more involving, and in fact find the standard frontal placement of instruments on other recordings a bit boring. But I can imagine some listeners might be freaked out."
Laurence Vittes

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