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  • Beethoven: String Quartets Nos. 14 & 16, Opp. 131, 135
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Beethoven: String Quartets Nos. 14 & 16, Opp. 131, 135


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Audio CD, November 10, 1992
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (November 10, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GGN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,606 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135: 1. Allegretto
2. String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135: 2. Vivace
3. String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135: 3. Lento assai e cantante tranquillo
4. String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135: 4. Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß. Grave (Muß es sein?) - Allegro (Es muß sein) - Grave, ma
5. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 1. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto espressivo
6. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 2. Allegretto
7. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 3. Allegro moderato
8. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 4. Andante, ma non tropo e molto cantabile - Andante moderato e lusinghiero - Adagio
9. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 5. Presto
10. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 6. Adagio quasi un poco andante
11. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131: 7. Allegro

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Leonard Bernstein's otherwise harmonious relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic hit a few bumps when he proposed that they perform this string quartet transcription of Beethoven's Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131. But only a few minutes into the first rehearsal, all static evaporated. One hears why: this great, idiosyncratic piece--along with the Quartet in F, op. 135--is played with startling freshness and affection. The unanimity of the orchestra ensures that textures are rarely muddied, while the sound of massed strings gives the music a grandeur always implied but never realized by conventional string quartet performances. What comes most to the fore in this version is the music's meditative qualities. At times, the slow movements sound like Mahler, with whom Bernstein identified even more strongly than with Beethoven. --David Patrick Stearns

Product Description

Deutsche Grammophon concludes its series of Leonard Bernstein's final recordings with orchestrations of two of Beethoven's late string quartets.
Genre: Classical Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
Rating:
Release Date: 10-NOV-1992

Customer Reviews

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This is truly great music.
William J. Mertens
For a string quartet version, go for the Lindsay Quartet recordings from the early 80's, very deeply felt, much more so than the Alban Berg or Emerson Quartet.
dv_forever
He holds up this very CD and replies: "This is my personal favorite record I've ever made in my life, if you'd really like to know."
T. Fisher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By dv_forever on December 19, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This recording seems to invite a lot of scoffing from purists. I'm a purist too, so why am I not scoffing? What's wrong with trying something different for once, it's not like the full string orchestra treatment is ever going to replace the real deal string quartet ensemble for which it was originally written. Bernstein himself said that this was his favorite of all his recordings. Since he recorded such a great deal, it's a remarkable statement by a conductor of his caliber. He dedicated this record to the memory of his wife.

What can be said about Opus 131 that hasn't already been said? It's the greatest string quartet ever written, even superior to Beethoven's other immense achievements in this genre. Playing this work on a full string orchestra perhaps takes away the intimacy of the chamber medium but it also gives it a vision and grandeur that we all know is inherent in the music. The slow, painful fugue that opens the work is music of the highest sublimity, for once it's great to hear it played by a full body of strings. Those strings belongs to the Vienna Philharmonic, so you know this is a performance for the ages. The 7 linked movements of Opus 131 are a monument to Beethoven, the architect. The long sequences of variations for instance or the short adagio prelude to the final movement, God, it doesn't get better than this. Yes, I do ultimately prefer the chamber version for 4 instruments, my favorite recording is by the Lindsay Quartet from the early 1980's, but Bernstein creates some enticing magic here that is worth the asking price. Sometimes I'll play this to people who would not normally engage with a string quartet but are easily won over by a string orchestra. Think Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings but much longer, varied and profound.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By The Man in the Hathaway Shirt on January 14, 2005
Format: Audio CD
If you think Beethoven should not be altered in any way, then this recording isn't for you. But keep in mind that "The Master" adapted his own works oftentimes, and something tells me he would not have objected to Lenny's approach here (which is Dmitri Mitropoulos' approach, actually, since the whole idea was his initially). Heck, Beethoven didn't balk when the publisher asked him to substitute his monumental Grosse Fugue finale to Op. 130. Furthermore, no one objects when his Leonore No. 3 Overture is inserted into the beginning of the second act of Fidelio. Frankly, I think Ludwig would consider this CD with a mind more open than most reviewers.

And there's lots to like here. The Vienna strings (I agree with Lenny that they are the "rightest" ones for the role) play with aching beauty and pin-point precision. If you just collect incredible examples of string playing, this is a CD you should have.

As for the interpretation, it's amazing how often things sound "right" to my mind, though I find Bernstein's handling of the first movement a tad overblown towards the end. Where he misfires there, however, he scores big time in the central theme-and-variations movement, where every tempo choice is well-considered, and 60 strings make more coherence out of the second-to-last variation than I've heard most quartets do. The scherzo too is amazing for both its virtuosity and for getting the moment *absolutely right.* The finale is relentless and powerful; too often it sounds almost puny in the hands of some string quartets. It's like a late-period Eroica, and it sounds right with large forces.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William J. Mertens on May 13, 2010
Format: Audio CD
If I had to choose only one CD for a long stay alone on a desert island, this would be it for Bernstein's performance of the Opus 131 quartet with the Vienna Philharmonic strings.

After Beethoven had finished his 9th Symphony and Missa Solemnis, he went on to one of the most productive and creative periods of his career as a composer, 1825-26. That's when he wrote his "late quartets" -- his last five string quartets plus the Grosse Fuge, originally the final movement of his Opus 130 quartet (no. 13) from this group. Only physical illness stopped him.

It's presumptuous to praise Beethoven's music. But in his late quartets, Beethoven created almost a new world of music -- one no other composer entered until the 20th century. Anyone who likes listening to Beethoven but assumes that his crowning achievement was the Ninth Symphony, and that he produced nothing great after that, needs to explore the quartets.

The story goes that when Beethoven was asked which of these quartets he thought was best, he replied, each in its own way. But at another time he said he favored the Opus 131 quartet, no. 14, in C# minor. It has been called the most perfectly integrated large-scale piece he ever wrote. It's a work of great power, beauty, complexity, and depth. Bernstein's symphonic treatment of it emphasizes its power and profundity. It's not just the massed strings; Bernstein also doubled the cello part with string bass. If I had to choose to hear this music only one way while awaiting rescue from the island, as a chamber or symphonic piece, I'd choose the symphonic version for this reason. This is truly great music. (And DGG should reissue it.)
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