Tokyo String Quartet, Beethoven: “Razumovsky” Quartets (Op.59, Nos.1-3)

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A master’s Slavic inflected chamber music.

This group of three quartets, Beethoven's Op. 59 and commissioned by Count Razumovsky (brother-in-law of Beethoven's patron Prince Lobkowitz), marks a new departure in the composer's chamber music. These are beginning to show signs of the pushing back of barriers that characterises all his greatest works of maturity — it is tempting to employ the word "symphonic" to structures as ambitious and complex as these. In deference to Count Razumovsky's origins — he was the Russian Ambassador in Vienna — Beethoven incorporates Russian themes into the three quartets, and gives them a vaguely Slavic feel with much use of plucked strings. Don't worry if these works do not embed themselves in your memory immediately — they tend to creep up on you and suddenly you realise they have captured your soul (and they'll be there forever!). The Tokyo Quartet's performances betray a lifetime of experience playing these great works.