Founded in 1992, the New York-based Brentano Quartet is known for its interpretations combining perfect technique and matchless musicality. Those qualities are even more obvious in this series of late Beethoven quartets with this first volume bringing together the Op. 127 and 131. This pure crystal of intelligence and brilliance will doubtless constitute a milestone.
Recorded live at London’s celebrated Wigmore Hall, this captivating recital by Joyce DiDonato and the Brentano Quartet was conceived around Jake Heggie’s song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, a work written for DiDonato – she describes it as “one of most moving projects I’ve ever been part of”. Songs by Debussy and Strauss and a quartet movement by Guillaume Lekeu complete the programme, which prompted the Financial Times to write that “the beauty and range” of DiDonato’s singing “are surely now at their impressive peak.”
The Végh Quartet was not only one of the finest string quartets from mid-twentieth century Europe, but its style was never subjected to radical change over the years from personnel changes because the four original players remained members for 38 of the 40 years of the ensemble's existence. Its style evolved in subtle ways, of course, but its essential character endured until 1978: the quartet was Central European in its sound, with a bit more prominence given to the cello in order to build tonal qualities from the bottom upward. The Végh Quartet was best known for its cycles – two each – of the Beethoven and Bartók quartets. It also performed and recorded many of the Haydn quartets, as well as numerous other staples of the repertory by Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Debussy. For a group that disbanded in 1980, its recordings are still quite popular, with major efforts available in varied reissues from Music & Arts, Archipel, Naïve, and Orfeo.
One of the most brilliant works in the quartet literature, an exciting new composition based on it, and a virtuoso award-winning ensemble: the Aris Quartet's GENUIN album Attacca bursts with energy from the very first moment. Highly acclaimed with awards such as "Echo Rising Stars" 2019, the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, and "New Generations Artists" 2018, the Aris Quartet juxtaposes Beethoven's "Russian" Quartet Op. 59, No. 1, with Gerald Resch's String Quartet No. 3. Gerald Resch's intention was to build a kind of "adjacent property" to Beethoven. The Aris Quartet vividly brings out both the connections and differences with its nuanced playing.
3 great Pacific Jazz CD's chronicling Chet Baker and Russ Freeman's live performances. This is where you really start to hear Chet find his own sound. He starts branching out on the two My Funny Valentine's found here, and his recordings of Stella By Starlight sound like the one's he did in the 1980's. The recording quality is pretty average in Volume 1, but it improves in Volume 2 and 3, especially considering how noisy American Jazz clubs used to be. Zing Went The Strings of My Heart is amazing, and it's one the fastest tempo tune Baker ever recorded. On several cuts, he plays the "Boo-bams", a bongo-type instrument invented by his friend Bill Loughborough.
With the vast majority of Beethoven's works being frequently performed as part of the modern canon, we can sometimes forget those few pieces that often lie dormant. This Hyperion album, featuring the Nash Ensemble, celebrates three such works. The program opens with the Op. 104 C minor String Quintet, which keen listeners will instantly recognize as a transcription of the Op. 1/3 Piano Trio. The quintet version came into being as a sort of "oneupsmanship" after an amateur composer submitted his own transcription. Beethoven, who accurately assessed that he could do better, rewrote it and published it as Op. 104. If you're not already familiar with the piano trio, you may never know that the string quintet began its life in a different genre. Beethoven's writing is highly idiomatic while preserving almost the entire original score of the trio. The Nash Ensemble's performance is equally refined and stunning, making it all the more curious why this piece is not performed more frequently.
In 1998, Columbia reissued a bunch of CDs by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, often adding one or two previously unissued selections to the sets. Buried Treasures: Recorded Live in Mexico City, however, is something different, for none of the music had been out before. Recorded live in 1967 during a tour of Mexico that also resulted in the album Bravo! Brubeck!, the set features the classic Brubeck Quartet (with altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello) performing seven selections they had previously recorded, which was probably why this particular music stayed in the vaults for decades. The quality is certainly quite high, with Brubeck and Desmond really digging into such songs as "Koto Song" (coming up with some inspired ideas over its vamp), "You Go to My Head," a lengthy "St. Louis Blues," and a fairly concise version of "Take Five," one of the few versions by Brubeck of the hit song that does not have a drum solo. Suffice to say, Dave Brubeck fans only need to be notified of two things: they do not already own this music, and the Quartet is heard throughout in prime form. Recommended.