Nikos A. Salingaros
These interpretations rank alongside the "classic" ones of the past, including t
We have here an outstanding first release in what many connoisseurs hope will be a full set of the Beethoven String Quartets. The Boston-based Borromeo Quartet is composed of all young players -- two men and two women. The way they play matches any of the middle-aged central-european gentlemen we have traditionally come to identify with the finest in quartet performances. This recording is so good that I believe it merits a detailed review.
ARTISTIC QUALITY. These interpretations rank alongside the "classic" ones of the past, including the Amadeus, Italiano, Vegh, etc. Please take the trouble to verify this for yourselves! That said, I'm going to compare them to three excellent recent complete sets -- those by the Auryn (Tacet), the second Lindsays (ASV); and the Takacs (Decca/Universal). In sheer intensity of playing, the Borromeo equals its competitors. The same goes for control and introspection. Some listeners criticize the Lindsays for rough playing -- the Borromeo achieves the same power and excitement while staying more musical. The Borromeo is as musically perceptive and interpretatively solid as the Auryn, and that's saying a great deal. For example, in the Second Movement of the Third "Razoumofsky", the Borromeo has perfect timing, along with the Auryn and Takacs, whereas the Lindsays are too fast. The Takacs, on the other hand, take the Finale of the Third "Razoumofsky" too fast for my taste, while the Lindsays are too slow. Even though the timing of the Borromeo's performance is actually four seconds faster than the Takacs', the Borromeo feels more natural. In the First Movement of the "Serioso", the Borromeo's pacing is absolutely perfect, while the Takacs (only 13 seconds faster) sound unnecessarily forced.
SOUND QUALITY. This recording is simply superb -- I would say truly "state of the art". It surpasses the Takacs, who are compromised by their sound engineers blending out their cello and fiddling with the overall volume for an exaggerated dynamic effect (at times, they have an unpleasant boom). The Lindsays' sound is very good but a trifle boxy. The Borromeo's sound quality equals that of the Auryn, whose superb, transparent recorded sound is the best of all complete sets. Take, for example, the marvelous pizzicatos in the Second Movement of the Third "Razoumofsky". The Auryn's cello is cleanly recorded; the Lindsays' is slightly too prominent; the Takacs' cello appears to tiptoe in and out of the room; whereas in the Borromeo's recording, you can actually hear the cello resonate. Far from being an indistinct boom, it transmits accurate musical information. The same transparent and vivid acoustic is present in the "Serioso" -- the Borromeo's cello is present in the room at all times; not obtrusive, but right there in front of you. The Takacs' cello and viola, on the other hand, seem to disappear when they don't have a leading role. The Borromeo, along with the Auryn and Lindsays, offers a natural blend of all four instruments. The Borromeo has the advantage of a clearer, more open high end over the Lindsays.
I have compared the Borromeo with the best. I believe that, as listeners discover this group and its recordings, my opinions will be confirmed. There is one important final point. Deluged as we are by massive publicity campaigns from the major record labels, discriminating listeners should vote with their credit card by supporting smaller, innovative record producers. That's where the musical action is nowadays. To encourage both producer and performers into giving us more outstanding recordings, I urge everyone to purchase this cd immediately.