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Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets [Box set]

Ludwig van Beethoven , Alban Berg Quartett Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Performer: Alban Berg Quartett
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (November 16, 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 7
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000026D4J
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,876 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Editorial Reviews

7 CD box set featuring Alban Berg Quartet, performing Ludwig Van beethoven string quartets.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just beautiful March 29, 2005
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
What a splendid set. I'm familiar with a number of other recordings--Cleveland, Takacs, Emerson, Budapest, Kodaly, etc.--but this is the best overall to my taste. The tone and sound are just beautiful. There is plenty of passion but no harshness. Plenty of gentleness and simply beauty when they are called for. Lots of dynamic range and varied tempi. On almost every movement (except for me Op 59 #1 second movement) they make the music come across in a fresh way that one can return to over and over.

Also, beautifully recorded.

Can't imagine anything better (though the Auryn quartet is wonderful, as well.)
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108 of 114 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Founded in 1971, the Alban Berg Quartet of Vienna was the dominant ensemble in the quartets of Mozart and Beethoven for two decades. Such was their pre-eminence that EMI recorded two complete Beethoven cycles with them over the span of less than five years. The first was made in the studio in 1985, the second was recorded live at the Mozart Saal in Vienna in 1989--since the latter contains applause, it's obvious which is which upon hearing them. But online stores like Amazon, Tower, and Crotchet do not distinguish between the two. The one pictured here is the studio cycle.

By general consensus the live recordings are warmer and freer in interpretation, the studio ones being noticeably more tightly controlled and polished. Virtually every critic prefers the 1989 cycle, which indeed is probably the best from the post-Budapest Quartet era (even surpassing the virtuosic Takacs and Emerson cycles of the last decade by combining intensity, genuine Viennese style, and sheer technical ease). I've bought both cycles and can attest that EMI's digital sound from 1985 is edgy and over-bright, making it impossible to listen comfortably at real-life volume levels, while the 1989 concert readings are in excellent sound, adding yet another reason to acquire the later set.

The orange-jacket Red Line series, offered a single CD at a time, is from 1985 and should be avoided. The "Great Recordings of the Century" set of the late quartets, with a photo of the four members of the Alban Berg on the cover, is from the live 1989 cycle. The only missing link is the possibility that the pictured box set here has been remastered, which the 1985 cycle certainly deserves.
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85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Overall December 9, 2004
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This quartet made a deep impression on me. I have listened to performances by Quartetto Italiano, Emerson, Amadeus, Cleveland, Lindsey, Vegh, Budapest and others and although each quartet has it's strengths, I believe the Berg Quartet gives the best overall performance of these works.

This remarkable ensemble seems to propel the music forward with a jet-engine thrust, while at the same time paying the greatest attention to detail, without getting lost in the minutia. By comparison, other quartets tend to sound rather square.

If you want depth of feeling, hair raising excitement, and a positively authoritative performance of Beethoven's greatest works, you honestly can't do better than the ABQ.

By the way, did I mention the tone? The tone, the tone, Oh God the tone.

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Top Cycle September 18, 2005
By Xyp
Format:Audio CD
This set is one of those opportunities to get in on wonderful performances at a great price. I had to weigh in because I was surprised to find some less than stellar reviews of this set- one reviewer below actually wrote a review for a completely different recording, giving this one 3 stars not even having heard it.

I found this set unerringly well recorded, unmistakably well played, and all together a great deal- 7 full length quality recordings of the greatest string quartets ever written for less than $45! There are performances that are as good (for example, check the Quatuor Mosaiques readings of the Op. 18 for a great sounding period performance take), and those are certainly collectable for the die-hard or purist, but I have yet to find a complete set of the Beethoven quartets that I would give a higher recommendation than this one.

** Update 2.6.06 - the Takacs Quartet Beethoven cycle (though so far only issued as three separate multi-disc packages) is well worth the time of anyone interested in these works, albeit at a much higher total price.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Gwac
Format:Audio CD
It may not bear mentioning for most people on this page, but these works are considered to be at the heart of the string quartet repertoire, and chamber music repertoire in general. Personally speaking, the late quartets in particular are some of my favorite compositions in all of music. They offer a singular perspective on the final musical thoughts of Ludwig van Beethoven's life, and seem to transcend time and genre. The quartets as a whole are notable for offering a fairly complete cross-section of Beethoven's progress as a composer while revealing some of his most experimental and personal musical expressions.

Performances: The Alban Berg Quartett approach these work with a Viennese grace that acknowledges the classical roots of Beethoven's music while highlighting the energetic and frequently unsettled nature that define his idiom. In taking this balanced approach they can claim equal success in such distinct movements as the lengthy andante of Op. 131 and the off-kilter vivace of Op. 135. Technically their playing is impeccable, with excellent intonation and disciplined ensemble.

I find myself most drawn to the ABQ's accounts of the early and late quartets. Their middle quartets are very good as well, but for some reason don't quite stand alongside my favorites (see the Takacs, Emerson, Cleveland quartets).

Sound Quality: Sound seems to be a sticking point for this set, which was recorded between 1978 and 1983 - the middle and early groups first (in analogue) and finally the late quartets (in early digital). The early and middle groups were then digitally remastered in 1985. The sound overall is spacious, in the same vein as the Takacs cycle, but with just a bit less clarity of texture - unsurprising given the two decades separating the two cycles.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Presentation
This album meets my highest expectations. It is highly regarded by all of the music critics, and it is also presently not being produced any more. Read more
Published 5 months ago by mjbishop
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I purchased the set of Complete String Quarters by Beethoven performed by Alban Berg String Quartet through Amazon Market Place. Initially, I got the Blue set (ADD). Read more
Published 11 months ago by O. Diaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Beethovenian account
The reputed string quartet "Alban Berg" offers here a fabulous traversal of complete Beethoven quartets. The achievement is simply stunning letting no room for critical comments. Read more
Published 13 months ago by P. Adrian
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful music, magnificently performed
Beethoven's string quartets contain some of his finest music, in my view. The early Opus 18 quartets retain elements of the classicism of Haydn and Mozart while moving the form... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Sid Nuncius
1.0 out of 5 stars LOTS OF SKIPS & DISTORTIONS
Purchased this boxed set through Amazon a short while back. The technical quality is terrible. Skips and distortions all over the discs. Read more
Published on February 22, 2012 by Lawrence A. Garvey
5.0 out of 5 stars amazon service
This is a fantastic recording at a very good price. It is a pity the original delivery went astray and I had to wait weeks for the second shipment. However, it was worth the wait. Read more
Published on January 29, 2012 by peter
2.0 out of 5 stars Very sad
I must say this is really a disappointment. Slow tempi, unmatched vibratos, fuzzy, foggy sound much of the time and a 1st fiddle that has REAL trouble in alt. Read more
Published on February 1, 2011 by Brillat-Careme
5.0 out of 5 stars An unparalleled Artistic, Personal and Spiritual Journey
Everything one hears about the 16 Beethoven String Quartets is absolutely true and, still, nothing prepares one for them. Read more
Published on August 5, 2010 by THE BLUEMAHLER
4.0 out of 5 stars very well done
I readily admit to not being a scholar of Beethoven's quartets, just an enthusiastic admirer. This collection is well played with the very minor exception of the first... Read more
Published on November 8, 2009 by Rondine
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fifth Version
Without shame I must confess I have eight versions of this CD, Different interpreters, Some Good, Some better but this particular CD somehow has captured my ear. Read more
Published on June 10, 2009 by francisco brambilla
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