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Comment: three-disc set with 23-page booklet (in English, German & French); jewel case, booklet and cover art are in excellent condition; discs are mint; "Made in Germany by EDC"; because we care that your order arrives in the condition stated, we have additionally sealed the case in a padded plastic sleeve for added protection during shipment (that can easily be removed upon receipt of your order)
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Middle String Quartets Original recording remastered

4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, August 14, 2007
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Disc 2
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Disc 3
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Product Details

  • Performer: Quartetto Italiano
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (August 14, 2007)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B000PMFTDG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,021 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is perhaps the single best performance of among the best music ever written. I keep listening to other recordings of the Op. 59, 74 and 95 Beethoven quartets, some of them very fine, and come back to the Italiano versions with pleasure. The Qto Italiano play with emotion, a sophisticated yet non-ostentatious directness and with a greater dynamic range than other ensembles. I don't want to call this recording "definitive" because there are so many other very good versions but for me it's the central interpretation of Beethoven's chamber music. Everything else revolves around it.

I wanted to focus on the sonic qualities of this recent re-issue of the Middle Quartets. I have owned the original LPs and also the earlier 1990s CD issue of the performances from Philips (ASIN: B00000E3LN). This remastering is a big step forward from 1990s issue and is worth the price. The original recordings are very good. The 1990s remastering, while by far not the worst ADD transfer I have listened to, had a fair amount of digital haze and it grates, especially over time. While I could and did listen to it on my expensive system, it wasn't ideal by any means. This new remastering reduces the digital haze significantly and reveals details obscured in the 1990s remastering. Given the quality of the music and performance, this is a welcome re-issue and I applaud Philips for going to the trouble.

Highest recommendation.
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Beethoven's 16 string quartets are, along with Bach's cantatas and Mozart's piano concertos, among the finest single genre sets in music history. Beethoven provides daunting and satisfying music for his string players: as a cellist I've observed how difficult it is to hold the center together. The quartets are heavily contrapuntal, each player is given an independent melodic line as if Beethoven were showcasing four soloists. Constant tension keeps pulling the players apart in a slow motion explosion. In the late quartets this is cruelly exacerbated by Beethoven's spreadsheet compositional sketching technique (he would have adored a PC) which he developed as a result of his total deafness. He drafted large sections of the quartet over and over again in full score so that he could more effectively manipulate all four parts. All of the instruments function polyphonically while (hopefully) blending together harmonically. Beethoven substituted eyesight for his ravaged hearing. As if this weren't hard enough, Beethoven uses frequent changes of time. In the second movement of the Quartet in E flat major op.127, he writes a set of 4 variations based on a theme in 12/8, the 2nd and 3rd variations are in different metres; in the 3rd movement the metre switches from triple time to 2/4 repeatedly; in the 4th movement the coda switches to 6/8. The middle quartets require greater expressiveness and power because they are public music, the clarion call of a musical rebellion. Beethoven is challenging his audience, daring them to defy him by rejecting his revolutionary music. Although the Rasoumovsky Quartets were called 'crazy music' at first, they have never left the repertory, serving as the capstone of the genre since they were written.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
I can remember English critics ranking the Beethoven cyle from the Quartetto Italiano in first place in the Seventies and Eighties. In retrospect their playing is suave and gentlemanly. In that regard they stand far away from either the intensity of the Alban Berg Qt. or the post-modern efficiency of the Emersons. I was never a great fan, feeling that the QI approached being dainty. A better word would be refined. Each player exhibits a gorgeous tone, and the ensemble as a whole is of one mind. Expect rounded corners and soft grain throughout.

The the robust, at times heroic idiom of the Middle Quartets is the least suited to their suavity -- I think the QI is at its best in the Early Quartets. But there's no doubt that their playing is a sensual pleasure, and Philips' original analog sound, sweet and open, holds up very well in this new remastering.
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Format: Audio CD
Contrary to an opinion stated here, I find the remasterings very poor. In the mad scramble to remove any remnant of diabolical tape hiss or digital edge, these recordings have been processed and filtered to death. While the lower and mid range are very full and clear, the higher frequencies are missing in action. A simple software extraction showed a greatly reduced frequency range when compared to the previous '90s issue.

When are record companies going to offer us an honest product, i.e. a recording transferred as accurately as possible from the original source? Recording techniques MAY have been inferior in the past, but no amount of artificial interference will change that. Remember fake stereo?

The serious issue here is how our recorded legacy is preserved. At some point, the original magnetic master tapes will deteriorate. Will all that remains be some record executive's idea of "improvement"?

This is a classic series of recordings and deserves more respectful treatment.
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