Guarneri Qt: Beethoven Late Quartets - German RCA SGA 25040-R/1-4 (4-LP box)
Box EX / LPs NM / German pressing
This very handsome 4-LP box set from German RCA (SGA 25040-R/1-4, German pressings, Red Seal labels, stereo, booklet included) features the illustrious Guarneri String Quartet in sublime renditions of Beethoven’s Late String Quartets Nos. 12-16, warmly recorded during the years 1968-1969.
The Guarneri Quartet were comprised of John Dalley (1st violin), Arnold Steinhardt (2nd violin), Michael Tree (viola), and David Soyer (cello).
Included then are the following works of Ludwig van Beethoven:
String Quartet No.12 in E-flat Major Op. 127
String Quartet No.13 in B-flat Major Op. 130
String Quartet No.14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131
String Quartet No.15 in A minor Op.132
String Quartet No.16 in F Major Op. 135
Grosse Fugue in B-flat Major Op. 133
Of RCA’s CD re-issue of their complete Beethoven cycle, the erudite critic Victor Carr Jr. wrote for ClassicsToday:
“The Guarneri Quartet’s solid and stable renditions should certainly satisfy those who prefer their Beethoven straight, no chaser. There’s little that’s extroverted and certainly nothing extravagant about the ensemble’s traversal of these 15 works–just consistently rich string tone, tasteful phrasing, intelligence, and impeccable musicianship, all in service of the music. Tradition reigns in these readings, with slower tempos in the early Op. 18 quartets imparting an old-fashioned “classical” feel (No. 4 loses some of its “bite” because of this), while the middle period quartets sound robust, if not especially vigorous (Op. 59 No. 1 proceeds at a comfortable trot rather than the energetic jog offered by the Alban Berg Quartet). In the late quartets the Guarneri players keep their distance from Beethoven’s elevated, occasionally ponderous rhetoric, preferring a lighter touch. Note the gracefulness that informs Op. 130, where the musicians make clear their preference for Beethoven’s shorter revised finale (the Grosse Fuge appears on a separate disc).
“That’s not to say the Guarneri skimps on substance; there’s intensity aplenty in Op. 131 (listen to the sublime Andante), and the slow movement of Op. 135 registers with the requisite gravity. That said, the group’s conservative, no-nonsense approach means that you might not hear the Op. 135 finale’s pre-echoes of Dvorák, or feel the rustic pulse of Op. 127’s peasant-dancing last movement (elements quite prominent in the Emerson Quartet’s performances). RCA’s close-perspective recording provides solid bass, but the lack of acoustic space makes it sound somewhat claustrophobic. Nonetheless, for newcomers on a budget, the Guarneri set provides a rewarding and affordable introduction to these masterpieces.”
These recordings were produced by Max Wilcox. The 8-page, full-size booklet contains very authoritative liner notes by Antonio Mingotti, provided in French, English, and German. The striking cover photo of the Guarneri String Quartet is uncredited alas.
Though not rare, this set is heavy. With 4 LPs, a booklet and a cloth box, this set will weigh over 1 kg. This means that outside of Europe the cost for shipping is about $40 USD, and that is just for standard airmail. Certified airmail (with a tracking number) costs $43 USD. Those in doubt can visit the Spanish postal website (Correos.com), which is available in English.
Although this listing states “free” shipping, it is not really free, of course. I have to pay for shipping like everyone else. Anyway, all this to say that the cost of shipping has been factored into the list price. If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to write and I will be happy to help. Thank you.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the box is EXCELLENT. The box is slightly “loose”, meaning only that it is not tightly fitting. However, there are no corner breaks, seamsplits, bends, owners’ markings, or other defects, and the whole remains solid, bright, and highly attractive – an excellent collector’s copy., bright, and highly attractive in appearance – overall, an outstanding collector's copy.
The condition of the booklet is EXCELLENT. The booklet betrays some handling, but that is all – overall, an excellent copy.
The condition of the 4 LPs is near-MINT. Although the surfaces are not absolutely silent (and thus I have rated it NM vs. MINT) these are fine copies and playback is superb. If you must have flawless surfaces, then please do not buy this set – these rate as NM collector's copies.