SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
BEETHOVEN: Complete String Quartets, Vol. 3 of 4 = Strings Quartets Op. 95 in F Minor, Op. 127 in E Flat Major, Op. 132 in A Minor – Auryn Quartet – Tacet
Published on May 15, 2007
A unique exploration of Beethoven’s string quartets continues with this third volume from Tacet. DVD-A is the only way to accommodate 204 minutes on a single disc in multichannel, but the reason such time length is required is that although the three quartets only range from 20 to 45 minutes each, they are repeated twice on the disc – once in the ultra-spatial technique pioneered by the label’s CEO and engineer Andreas Spreer, which puts the two violinists at their respective left and right front speakers plus the violist at the left surround and the cellist at the right surround location; then on tracks 14 thru 26 the players are made to artificially move around occasionally in a fashion derived from the sense of the music itself. This is the Moving Real Surround Sound.
Some listeners will undoubtedly think this is going too far in playing around with the spatial possibilities of multichannel delivery, and I must admit I’m in their camp. However, I find the Real Surround Sound presentation (tracks 1 – 13) to make the Beethoven quartets a more interesting and involving experience than I have ever found them previously – even when played by my favorite quartet, The Fine Arts. You may want to adjust the balance between the front and surround channels when playing this disc – I found the surrounds much higher level than the fronts. I was actually stretched out on my sofa for a couple of the quartets and it was a transporting experience. One feels as though you are in the midst of a string quartet practicing in your listening room. Spreer calls it “Within the Master’s Magic Circle.” Those with matched frontal and surround speakers will realize the best sonic display from this disc. You will need DVD-Audio playback ability, because there doesn’t appear to be a Dolby Digital 5.1 option on this disc as on many other DVD-As – probably due to lack of room.
The two late quartets show a major change in Beethoven’s approach to the earlier Op. 95 work. He was more profoundly deaf and the sometimes harsh juxtaposition of notes in them is thought to have been due to the composer not being able to try out some of the passages he imagined in his head and put down on paper. The five movements of Op. 132 (one of them only two minutes long!) constitute a compositional tour de force – much of it based on a tiny motif which is taken thru a very personal development over the 45-minute length of the quartet. The composer marked over the central slow movement of the quartet the phrase “Hymn of Thanksgiving,” and the work concludes with a drawn-out and eloquent hymn which has a mood similar to the Ode to Joy of the Ninth Symphony, but without words or orchestration.
For more details on this path-breaking set of the Beethoven Quartets, see our review of Volume 2 of the series, which also contains a link to our review of Volume 1.
– John Sunier