Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

String Quartets Op 127 & 135
Skampa Quartet
Supraphon 3464-2 131 [56.40]
Koch International
Charlote House , 87 Little Ealing Lane, London W5 4 EH
tel.: +44(0)181 832 1800
fax.: +44(0)181 832 1813

In UK, the Skampa Quartet is one of the best known Czech string quartets, having enjoyed a presitigious Residency at Wigmore Hall. The accuracy of their playing, notably that of its leader in some of the mercilessly exposed passages in these two great, late quartets of Beethoven, is not due to careful editing in the recording process, as Seen&Heard has been pleased to discover in their live appearances. The Eb is perhaps the most relaxed and genial of the last six, which is in the conventional four movements. Slow movements of great profundity are at the heart of both this 1824 work and of the more concentrated final F major quartet of two years later, in which the gravity of the latter's is thrust aside by the enigmatic finale's arduous decision, with its motifs annotated Must it be? It must be! (possibly no more than a joke) combined with contrapuntal mastery of the highest order.

These two contrasted quartets make an ideal coupling and this version can be highly recommended, provided you are not amongst those listeners who feel a need to experience a sense of struggle in performances of these late masterpieces by their deaf composer.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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