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
For all the agony as to the status of classical music in the modern musical landscape, the three 20th century string quartets on this fine French release can be said to have entered the repertory, with a reach that extends far beyond the U.S. They go quite well together, which is the first point in favor of France's Quatuor Diotima here; both Steve Reich's Different Trains, for string quartet and tape, and George Crumb's Black Angels for electric quartet feature an artificially enhanced string quartet, and even Samuel Barber elected to "enhance" his String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11, by orchestrating its central movement and making it into the famous Adagio for strings. Highly recommended.
There are artists who have the gift of magnifying a work that was thought more or less successful. That is the case here of the young quartet Hermes which we owe a splendid recording of three quartets by Robert Schumann. If the Third has always seemed the most successful, the first two seemed littered writing weaknesses. Nothing like here with the Hermes who offer us a worried Schumann, enthusiastic, romantic, giving this triptych cohesion rarely heard such a level. France has truly become the last twenty years a large string quartet nation, thanks to the combined actions of Pro Quartet and the beautiful teaching of Ysaяe Quartet. A new record provides further evidence. Hermes Quartet is a young training to monitor closely.