I hadn't heard of the Berlin-based Petersen Quartet before buying this CD and have been simply blown away by this recording of the Beethoven Op. 130 quartet and the Grosse Fugue, on every level.
The Petersen Quartet plays with a technical ability above the level of its competition - high praise given the virtuoso level of so many fine contemporary quartets. Strengths include a tremendous dynamic range - they play as softly as any quartet I've heard at times -- great polish at all points and no intonation issues anywhere to be seen. The almost unplayably-difficult Grosse fuge, originally the finale of the Op. 130 quartet, is presented as smoothly as I can remember.
Their expressivity is at a high level. The opening exposition of the Op. 130 quartet (track 1) is a very exciting build-up from soft to a loud, raucous celebration and is unlike any of the performances I know. The flowing "alla danza tedesca" (track 4) is gracious and flowing in a very pleasing way. The whisper-soft middle section of the Cavatina (track 5) is eery and spooky. This is emotionally-engaged performance that makes late Beethoven's often craggy writing into fully expressive statement. They also highlighted a thematic relationship between the Scherzo (track 2, transition into the second A section with 1st violin runs) and the Andante (track 3, a D-flat in the second violin) which I at least had never noticed, so this is a really thoughtful interpretation, even apart from the emotion and technical brilliance.
Finally, the sonics of the recording are audiophile quality. Very detailled, with a pleasing tone and a large dynamic range.
A great disc.
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