Guarneri Quartet Performs Beethoven
The Guarneri Quartet performs two of Beethoven’s masterpieces on this DVD: The Quartet #9 in C-Major, Op. 59, Number 3, also know as the third Rasumofsky Quartet; and the Quartet number 11 in F-Minor Op. 95, also known as the “Serioso” Quartet.
This group had performed together for their entire musical career, after meeting during their studies and deciding to form a string quartet. Arnold Steinhardt, the first violinist has written one or two books about their performance history.
The performance is intelligent, clean, with excellent adherence to balance and dynamic markings. It is solid and direct. The playing ought to be satisfying to those listeners who want to have Beethoven performed with strict adherence to tradition, and with conservative approaches to the material as it appears in the printed music. What I mean is that there are few surprises. The group does not present any new insight into individual passages that we have not previously heard. There is no attempt to show us some very subtle area, perhaps in the slow movements, where we hear something delightfully new or sensitive.
These works are played in a very traditional style, with seemingly little risk taking to explore some new aspect of these pieces; having said that, I hasten to add that the playing is consistently beautiful. We hear the very rich string tone, tasteful phrasing, and impeccable musicianship for which this group is famous. And the musicians themselves are really a great match with each other. It is quite satisfying to hear such strength of playing from the viola and the Cello. The viola player, Mr. Tree, is confident to sound above the other players, when it is clear that Beethoven gave him the melody. And David Soyer, the Cellist, is equally in the forefront when the music requires him to be there.
These are very satisfying performances, if somewhat conservative per my comments above.