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Cleveland Quartet – The Complete Rca Album Collection Gemini, Eschenbach, Christoph

Cleveland Quartet – The Complete Rca Album Collection Gemini, Eschenbach, Christoph

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Immediately upon their debut at the 1969 Marlboro Festival, four brilliant young American musicians calling themselves the Cleveland Quartet were hailed as a chamber ensemble of exceptional quality. Over the next quarter century, they performed on every continent, including nearly 30 complete Beethoven cycles in the US and Europe. At their peak, the Cleveland Quartet gave more than 100 concerts a year. They became the first classical artists to play on the televised Grammy awards and performed at the White House for President’s Carter inauguration. “A quartet in the great tradition,” declared Stereo Review’s critic, commenting on the Cleveland’s Beethoven for RCA Victor, their exclusive label between 1972 and 1987.

Most of the ensemble’s recordings for RCA have never appeared on CD until now. Sony Classical is pleased to present this entire, critically acclaimed discography in a box set of 23 discs.

The earliest entry, first released in 1973, comprises the three Brahms quartets, idiomatic performances that Gramophone’s enthusiastic reviewer heard as “suffused with a warm and mellow light. Scrupulous attention is given to every detail and yet lyrical phrases are allowed their head. … There is no other complete set of these three works that effectively rivals this new recording.”

The same magazine also acclaimed the next Cleveland release, Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”: “I know of no string quartet with more sumptuous tone than the Cleveland. Their style of music-making is equally generous: they squeeze the last drop of expression out of every bar. … The recording is excellent in catching their tonal body and bloom.”

And so the story continued, with quartets by Haydn, Ives (“A definitive performance” – High Fidelity) and Barber, as well as collaborations with Emanuel Ax in the piano quintets of Schumann, Brahms, and Dvorák, which Stereo Review in 1977 deemed “the finest thing the Cleveland Quartet has yet given us – simply gorgeous playing that is totally integrated, within the foursome and with the pianist, at every point.”

There are also two octets. In Mendelssohn’s, the Cleveland players are joined by the Tokyo Quartet, in Schubert’s by such distinguished British soloists as Barry Tuckwell on horn and Jack Brymer on clarinet. And, not least, there is the Schubert String Quintet with Yo-Yo Ma as second cellist, recorded and originally released by CBS. Gramophone called the performance “splendid”, one that goes “to the very heart of this wonderful work.”

But the core of the Cleveland Quartet’s RCA discography is surely the complete Beethoven cycle they recorded between 1974 and 1979. Stereo Review was thoroughly impressed in the Early Quartets by the “(seemingly) effortless agilità, rhythmic vitality and flexibility, and feel for structure and the big line”, and its reviewer found the performances of the Middle Quartets “full of intensity and flexibility with never a hint of self-indulgence, romantic excess, or, for that matter, academicism or over study. The string sound is gorgeous and beautifully recorded.” And, writing about the Cleveland’s Late Quartets, the magazine called it “a true capstone” to the series.

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 23
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Sony Masterworks SRM 2
    • UPC/Barcode: 194399980521
    • Item Number: 19439998052