Release Date: 04/10/2010
I. Allegro con brio
II. Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato
III. Scherzo (Allegro molto) & Trio
I. Maestoso - Allegro
II. Adagio ma non troppo, molto cantabile
III. Scherzando vivace
For the Artemis Quartet, Beethoven remains “the most modern, provocative, experimental and boldest composer of all”. The Artemis’ devotion to Beethoven’s towering quartets brings two seasons of concerts around Europe and the US and, in 2011, the release of the complete cycle on Virgin Classics.
The sixth release in the Artemis Quartet’s complete Beethoven cycle comes as the Berlin-based ensemble devotes its international performing schedule to this cornerstone of the repertoire.
“This group finds a balance between projecting musical structure and conveying immediacy,” wrote the New York Times in March 2010. “The players cultivate unity of thought and intention but not conformity of sound and style ... the Beethoven performances the Artemis offered were remarkably cogent and organic. The Quartet in E flat (Op. 127), the first of the five late works, is my favourite of the Beethoven quartets, partly because it is so blithely strange. Artemis captured that quality in an engrossing performance. For example, in the middle of the pensive slow movement the music breaks out into something reminiscent of a sentimental German beer-hall tune complete with an oompah dance riff, qualities impishly conveyed here. The seemingly breezy theme of the finale has astonishing twists embedded in its phrases and harmonies, vividly realized by Artemis”.
2010-11 continues the Artemis Quartet’s two-season run of Beethoven concerts in European and North American cities. Between 2009 and 2011, they will have played his quartets in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Milan, Florence, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston and Los Angeles, at the Schubertiade festival in Austria, and elsewhere. Spring 2011 brings the completion of this Beethoven marathon, when op 18/6 & opp. 130/133 (Grosse Fuge) join the recorded quartets and Virgin Classics releases the complete cycle in a box set.
Eckart Runge, cellist of the Artemis Quartet, asserts that: “In relation to the time in which he lived, Beethoven is the most modern, provocative, experimental and boldest composer of all. Many have used the string quartet to experiment, to trial and develop their mode of composition … but none of them was more extreme than Beethoven. Even today, the Grosse Fuge remains one of the most incredible and most modern pieces of music ever written … No matter how complicated the form, one can always find essential human emotion in Beethoven, whether it is hopeful longing, apprehension, exuberant joy or shy affection.”
The Artemis’s debut release on Virgin Classics in 2005 comprised Beethoven’s op 59/1 and op 95, while the second release brought together op 59/2, the ‘Razumovsky’ Quartet, and the Quartet op 18/4. In France, the release was named CHOC of the Year by Le Monde de la Musique and also received a Diapason d’Or; in Germany it was Chamber Music Recording of the Year in the prestigious ECHO Klassik awards. In the UK, the Sunday Times praised the “fresh, positive responses” of the Artemis Quartet, saying: “ … their colours are vivid and they are alert to the music’s intent to push all sorts of boundaries to breaking point,” while BBC Radio 3’s CD Review placed the recording at the top of its list of recommendations. March 2010 brought the release of quartets opp 18/2, 59/3, 131 and 132 in versions first released on the Ars Musici label.
As Germany’s Tagesspiegel has said of the Artemis Quartet’s playing:
“It was as if the ink of Beethoven’s manuscript was still fresh on the page.”