- String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major ("Lieb"), Op. 130
- String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131
If the Shanghai Quartet's live 2004 performances of Ludwig van Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130," and the "String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131," are not the most profound or the most insightful ever recorded, they are still worth hearing for their panache, spontaneity, and vigor. Perhaps the need to find deep meanings in Beethoven's late quartets prevents us from hearing them as virtuoso vehicles, which, apart from their moments of great beauty and serenity, they most certainly are. The Shanghai Quartet has clearly worked through the numerous technical challenges these works present, and brings them to life with a lightness of touch that plays against the heaviness and intensity that some ensembles offer. However, anyone who is familiar with these string quartets will note that the Shanghai Quartet is a little too hasty with the fast tempos and averse even to linger over the most affecting sections in the slow movements. Regretfully, the poignant "Cavatina, Op. 130," is hurried through, and the awe-inspiring fugue of Op. 131 seems almost perfunctory in delivery here, as if the players had no idea how to shape it for emotional impact. Still, for the sprightlier movements in these masterworks, the Shanghai Quartet gives creditable performances that are attractive and entertaining, and which seem to have engaged the audience, if the enthusiastic applause is any indication. Accord's sound is better than average for a concert recording, though the microphone placement seems a little distant.