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Quatuor Turner plays
Beethoven String Quartets -
considered by PETER DALE

'... more immediate, more compelling, sometimes more alienating, always more convincing.'

Beethoven: Quatuors à cordes. (p) 2001 harmonia mundi


The Turner Quartet's special claim upon our attention is that they set about to recover, where possible, as much of the original character of the music they play as can be gleaned from the earliest sources: manuscripts, of course, but also early performing copies, the impressions of the first audiences, the reactions of the first critics, and so on. Sometimes this results in unusually fast or unusually slow tempi (that thorny old problem of Beethoven's metronome again!), sometimes in revised details of bowing, often in dynamics being played at slightly greater extremes of emphasis, but most tellingly of all in the fresh impressions they convey of the music as a whole: Schumann without the accretions of a (false) Viennese background; Schubert no less melodically fertile than usual but sometimes with a rare elegance too; and so on.

In the case of this disc, they seem to have pondered long and hard on what it was about Beethoven's music that prompted sensible, sober contemporaries to make (apparently considered) remarks about it such as: 'This is a bad joke from a lunatic'.

We can reproduce original instruments, authentic period acoustics, idiomatic playing styles, etc, but the rock on which the musical purists must all eventually founder is that it is impossible to reproduce original listeners. How the first audiences responded is a singularly important tell-tale of the composer's original intentions, even in the case of someone like Beethoven who was so (superficially?) indifferent to what his contemporaries thought.

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Copyright © 9 January 2002 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK







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