Christo­pher Din­gle is left breath­less by the quar­tet’s sixth and fi­nal help­ing of Beethoven mas­ter­pieces

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents -

Beethoven String Quar­tet No. 6 in B flat, Op.18; String Quar­tet No. 8 in E mi­nor, Op. 59 No. 2 (Ra­sumovsky No. 2); String Quar­tet No. 16 in F, Op. 135

Elias String Quar­tet

Wig­more Hall Live Wh­live0093/2 102:04 mins (2 discs) There’s no dan­ger here of fa­mil­iar­ity breed­ing con­tempt. Recorded in 2015, this sixth and fi­nal vol­ume of the Elias String Quar­tet’s ad­mirable Beethoven cy­cle com­fort­ably matches the ex­ulted qual­i­ties of ear­lier re­leases. As be­fore, the two-disc set fea­tures one of the Op. 18 quar­tets, a mid-pe­riod work and one of the late mas­ter­pieces to cre­ate an exquisitely bal­anced pro­gramme in it­self. In­evitably, per­haps, the set con­cludes with Beethoven’s last state­ment in the genre, Op. 135, as well as the con­clud­ing quar­tet of Op. 18, while the se­cond Razu­movsky Quar­tet forms the cen­tre­piece.

There is painstak­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail, yet these live per­for­mances burst with spon­tane­ity. Pas­sages of tran­scen­dent lyri­cism abound, the Ada­gio of

Op. 18 No. 6 and the great slow move­ment of the se­cond Ra­sumovsky Quar­tet be­ing im­bued with a sub­lime flu­id­ity rare in mod­ern per­for­mances. The pac­ing of key mo­ments, such as the ex­is­ten­tial mus­ing that starts the fi­nal move­ment of Op. 135, man­ages to pro­duce de­light­fully fresh nu­ance while re­main­ing nat­u­ral and avoid­ing man­ner­ism.

Most strik­ing, though, is the vis­ceral ex­cite­ment the Elias bring page after page, with pas­sion and in­ten­sity of ex­pres­sion to the fore. There is noth­ing prim, po­lite or in­sipidly nice in these per­for­mances, whether push­ing for­ward breath­lessly at the end of Op. 59

No. 2 or sus­tain­ing the heart­felt emo­tion of the fi­nal quar­tet’s Lento as­sai in a barely mov­ing hush.

The Elias en­able Beethoven’s rad­i­cal moder­nity to be heard afresh, this disc cap­ping a cy­cle that takes a de­served place among the finest on disc. PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★


Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­

These live per­for­mances burst with spon­tane­ity

Fine con­clu­sion: the Elias String Quar­tet’s Beethoven rounds off in style

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