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Beethoven: String Quartets 1 - Alban Berg Quartet
Beethoven String Quartets 1 - Alban Berg Quartet
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
UR     2006     3hr 7min

The String Quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven are considered to be the greatest and most powerful testaments to the chamber music genre. The Alban Berg Quartett had already made studio recordings of all the Beethoven quarte...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Classical
Studio: EMI Classics
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 01/24/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 3hr 7min
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

RBSProds | Deep in the heart of Texas | 03/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Five MAGNIFICENT Stars!! This stunning two-DVD set deserves Six Stars! This multiple award-winning classical string quartet, the Alban Berg Quartett, is composed of supreme musicians, who are also very prestigious teachers in Vienna. Gunter Pichler and Gerhard Schulz are on 1st and 2nd violins, respectively; Valentine Erben is on cello; and the late Thomas Kakuska is on viola. It is wonderful to see and hear any great chamber quartet but these men are in the class of very few string ensembles: ever! This is second time they have done "the cycle" and this time it's on DVD, recorded live in Vienna during 1989. This is Part 1 of 3 DVD sets.

Founded in 1971, the Viennese-based quartet deserves another sort of award for longevity, amid few personnel changes, since some similar string quartets have folded their tents during the ABQ's 35 year run. When I bought this DVD it was very pricey, but for two beautifully recorded, aurally perfect, stunningly performed discs, it is worth every penny. This DVD, detailing the ABQ playing a section of the Beethoven string quartet cycle, is A KEEPER. And I'm going after the complete cycle.

When these remarkable performances were recorded, the ABQ was totally prepared for the challenges of the Beethoven string quartets. "The 'Berg" literally work up a sweat as they elegantly, accurately, and furiously bow their way through these beautiful complex works of music. Their concept, cooperation, and command of nuance is BREATHTAKING to listen to and watch, as the music's volume ebbs and flows. My 'Piece De Resistance' favorites are all of the movements of No 10, E Flat Major, Opus 74 (Harp), which has stunning arco and pizzicato work, the overlapping instrumentation with each member taking the lead at times, and the tremendous demand on strength, patience, and timing. One hesitation and everything could collapse in on itself. But not here and not ever for these formidable musicians.

The camera cuts are numerous and riveting, the sound (Dolby Digital 5.0, DTS 5.0, or PCM stereo) is crystal clear, and the performances (one and all) are truly magnificent. (Region 1, NTSC. Liner notes in English, German, and French.) And let's not forget Mr Beethoven, himself, a true musical uber-genius who produced these most formidable of works amid personal turbulence and tragedy. Highly recommended. Six Stars!!!

*There are two other ABQ DVDs which complete the Beethoven string quartet cycle with Thomas Kakuska in the viola chair. Since this recording there has been one change in the ABQ lineup. With death approaching, Mr Kakuska stated his express wishes that the quartet continue performing and that his brilliant former student, Isabel Charisius, take the viola chair: both wishes were honored, thankfully.

* There is also a great box CD set of the complete Beethoven String Quartet cycle by the Berg, which features two incarnations of the ABQ with either original violist Hatto Beyerle (member from 1971 to 1981) or Thomas Kakuska (1981 to his death in 2005);

*Alban Berg, the quartet's namesake, is the famed "Second Viennese School" composer (after "First Viennese School"ers Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn). His widow graciously gave permission for the use of his name.)"
First Class Performance
Dermot Elworthy | Florida , United States | 09/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Alban Berg Quartett always has been a very disciplined group and this cycle of the Beethoven quartets demonstrates ensemble playing of the very highest order - it just does not get any better. These are superb musical performances judged by almost any standard and for those wanting a video dimension in their quartets, these DVDs have to be the best available.

But, if I may digress for a moment; I have yet to be convinced that video enhances the level of enjoyment of this type of music. More often than not, I find it a distraction from the primary function of musical appreciation and this DVD set is a case in point. Camera work is moderately good and tolerably well directed relative to the score, although there are occasions where the musical focus might be on, say, the second violin but the camera is yet again absorbed with the unpleasant angularity of the Mozart-Saal organ case. There are too many of these instances which I find irritating and attention-diverting; ditto the ABQ's somewhat theatrical flourishes at the conclusion of a movement. And do we really need to see/hear the instruments being tuned before every movement? Once at the beginning of a work is sufficient.

As has been suggested elsewhere, these works may be experienced in sound only but that does seem a waste of the money paid for the video component.

On the positive side, the video can be helpful in identifying the inner parts with their respective instruments; useful in the absence of a score. However, for audio only (without the video distraction) I prefer to listen to a couple of other chamber groups who maintain a spontaneity and freshness which, in my view, seem in large measure to have been polished out by The Berg's striving for that homogeneity they so successfully have achieved. An example of this perceived "sterility" is the Heiliger Dankgesang from the A minor quartet, one of chamber music's most emotionally-charged passages but I think in this performance more than a little bland.

Regardless of my criticisms, these are absolutely first class technical performances and I recommend them. Incidentally, these comments are derived from watching/listening to all three volumes in this set; not just the volume being the subject of this review.

Leeber Cohen | 01/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"You do not need to think twice about obtaining this first of three volumes. It contains the Opus 131 in C sharp minor which is a stunning work. This volume also contains five other quartets which serve as a good introduction to the Beethoven quartets. It is very easy to imagine yourself in the concert hall which is an advantage over the CDs. All four musicians are superb and the ensemble playing incredible. The DVD gives you the chance to look at the bowing of the instruments and watch the ensemble playing. The audio quality is fine. I also have the other two volumes which are also excellent. I have complete sets of the Vermeer and Takacs on CD which are very different performances but also very enjoyable. As an amateur cellist I really enjoy playing along with these recordings. It is both humbling and also an incentive to keep on practicing. If you have never seen a string quartet performance or heard these Beethoven quartets acquiring this DVD will be one of the best decisions you have made. Hopefully with the internet we will be able to experience live performances of ensembles like this with increasing frequency."