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Beethoven String Quartets on DVD - Wihan Quartet

String Quartets Op. 18 Nos. 1, 2 & 6
String Quartet in F major, Op. 14, no.1 (after the Piano Sonata)
String Quartet Op. 59 No. 1 'Rasumovsky No. 1
String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 74 'Harp'
String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130 Grosse Fuge in B flat major, Op. 133

Bonus documentary about the Wihan Quartet filmed and edited by Alice Nellis
Recorded live 2007/ 2008 at the Convent of St. Agnes Prague

Nimbus Alliance - DVD NI6107 (2 discs)

Most collectors of chamber music will already have good versions of the Beethoven quartets in their collections. This for me is a happy consummation of a long lifetime living with these masterworks which shall ever be at the pinnacle of western music. The Wihans Beethoven String Quartets Live is a landmark chamber music production.

The Convent of St. Agnes, Prague, can be seen and heard as an ideal venue for the cycle, and the production of the performances by Jaroslav Rybar is superb, both for sound quality and for the tasteful camera work, which is both intimate yet free of gratuitous fussiness and excessive close ups. At home, one feels like a privileged member of the convent audience, and pauses, for example, carry a heightened charge when seen as well as 'heard'.

The quartet's performances are supported by a quite exceptional documentary film, made with uncommon expertise by Alice Nellis and edited with great sensitivity. She provides unique insights into the lives and intimate personal relationships of a great quartet, formed as students in 1985, one which has stayed together so long despite all the pressures and undisguised tensions of such a life. You gradually get to know the four as very different individuals, which resonates whilst watching the concert performances.

On its own, I would rate Nellis's film as worth the modest pricing of the whole; click the link for a substantial excerpt. This DVD is an obvious recommendation.

Peter Grahame Woolf