The string quartet is the highest achievement of classical music. How to describe what a great string quartet is/does? Four voices that sing, simultaneously dependently and independently. Or, as someone else once said, "a conversation among four very intelligent and witty persons." After almost 200 years, Beethoven's 16 quartets still stand as the acme of the form, notwithstanding brilliant contributions from just about every important composer since. There are many wonderful performances of the Beethoven quartets available on CD, but none are more distinguished than these performances by the Talich Quartet. More than any other ensemble in my experience, the Talich's performances proclaim that intimacy is the true experience of quartet playing (and listening). Every phrase is projected with exquisite attention to the constantly shifting balance of light and shadow that is the hallmark of the greatest quartet playing. Tempos are vigorous without being rushed, rubato is applied in the subtlest way imaginable, and dynamics seem to explore impossible distinctions between pp and ppp. In short, every performance in this set invites you to carefully listen to Beethoven's musical argument as you've never listened before.T. Beers – Amazon
‘Three small, easy and brief concertinos and a couple of quartets for the flute’ is how Mozart described the commission from Ferdinand Dejean. The pieces were K285 and K285a; K285b and K298 were written separately. The authorship of K285b has been questioned, and for Henrik Wiese, editor of the Henle Edition, Mozart in K298 ‘makes use of various themes by minor contemporary composers cobbling them into a parodistic quartet’.
Fans of the string quartets by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn should by all means try this disc of string quartets by George Onslow. British-born and Bohemian-trained composer spent most of his career in France, and aside from their tonal language and their four-movement structure, his quartets have little in common with his German contemporaries. In fact, they have little in common with the music of his French contemporaries, who concentrated mostly on stage works. But in these overwhelming persuasive performances by the Quatuor Diotima, Onslow's quartets come across as fully formed, wholly confident, and enormously expressive works. There is tremendous power in the fast movements: the rip-roaring Scherzo, from his D minor Quartet, Op. 55; immense pathos in the slow movements: the heartbreaking Andante con variazioni from the E flat Quartet, Op. 54; and awesome intensity in the opening movements: the monumental Allegro maestoso ed espressivo from the C minor Quartet, Op. 56.