- String Quartet No. 8 in E minor ("Rasumovsky 2"), Op. 59/2
- String Quartet No. 9 in C major ("Rasumovsky 3"), Op. 59/3
The "Op. 59 Quartets," the so-called "Razumovsky" Quartets for their dedication to Beethoven's patron of the same name, represent a turning point not only for Beethoven's own compositional style, but for the string quartet genre itself. Gone are the days of string quartets written for small, intimate audiences; Op. 59 finds Beethoven using the four string players more as a miniature symphony than simply a chamber ensemble. The independence of parts is greatly heightened, and the dialogue between them is constant. This PentaTone album features the "Second" and "Third" of these quartets performed by the Quartetto Italiano. The original cycle of the Beethoven quartets was revolutionary in its own right. This recording draws on a 1973 quadraphonic recording. For decades, recordings of this type were released only in stereo; now, listeners with an SACD player can enjoy the original spaciousness and encompassing sound that Philips originally had in mind. The ensemble's performance is technically crisp, musically vibrant, and enthralling from start to finish. This is a very score-oriented reading, without the sometimes present over-interpretation, unnecessary emotional add-ons, or senseless rubato. Quartetto Italiano masterfully plays what's on the page; the overall tone is somewhat bright, and some listeners may wish that PentaTone had toned that down a bit in its remastering. Otherwise, this album is sure to find a place of distinction in any audiophile's collection.