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BEETHOVEN // Complete String Quartets

Talich Quartet,

“A quartet is a conversation among four educated equals”_Goethe


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With the 16 string quartets and the final Grande Fugue, Beethoven revolutionized this demanding format, to which he devoted himself from the last years of the 18th Century up to his death. Listening to these works one by one is to follow the composer’s evolution step by step as their language becomes ever more powerful and complex.

What do we experience today when we listen to Beethoven quartets?

We of course appreciate them based on such or such a school, or on traditional interpretations like those by the Talich.
Yet the sheer boldness of the cycle”s composition still has listeners enthralled nearly two centuries after it was written. It’s not as much the level of concentration required, making any kind of “easy listening” moot, as it is its timeless, vital energy that is so compelling for listeners today.







QUARTETS OP.18 N°3, 1 & 2
QUARTETS OP.18 N° 5, 4 & 6
QUARTETS OP.133, OP.95 & OP.127
QUARTETS OP.59 N°1 & OP.74
QUARTETS OP.59 N°2, OP.130
QUARTETS OP.59 N°3 & OP.131
QUARTETS OP.132 & OP.135
  • 15th Quartet in A minor op. 132 / Allegro sostenuto – Allegro 9’06
  • 15th Quartet in A minor op. 132 / Allegro ma non troppo 8’53
  • 15th Quartet in A minor op. 132 / Molto adagio 16’47
  • 15th Quartet in A minor op. 132 / Alla marcia, assai vivace 2’16
  • 15th Quartet in A minor op. 132 / Allegro appassionato 6’53
  • 16th Quartet in F major op. 135 / Allegretto 6’22
  • 16th Quartet in F major op. 135 / Vivace 3’23
  • 16th Quartet in F major op. 135 / Lento assai, cantate e tranquillo 6’54
  • 16th Quartet in F major op. 135 / Grave, ma non troppo tratto – Allegro 6’38








The Talich Quartet’s Beethoven cycle must be numbered among the finest currently available. These are eminently civilised performances with refinement, excellent ensemble and warmth of tone to commend them.


The Talich subordinate flashy virtuosity to the music’s meaning; they have a beautifully blended tone, with sonorities built up from the bottom; rythms are flowing and attacks are firm without being aggressive. The ensemble’s use of color for expressive effect heightens the eloquence of the late quartets, which are the highlights of the set thanks to the Talich’s searching interpretations and stylistic integrity.


The Talich Quartet is an armchair of a quartet… not strident, not terribly aggressive, but also with enough spring in the cushions to keep a certain bounce… neither homogenized nor flaccid in their sound. Their Mendelssohn remains top-of-the-line (although the Mandelring Quartet seems to be close on their heels). Their Mozart is old-world gorgeous (see Best of 2011). Much the same of what is true for their Mozart is true for their Beethoven, although the competition in Beethoven seems greater: There’s the Gewandhaus Quartet in roughly the same category… the Végh Quartet—albeit in considerably inferior sound (and out of print)—offers even more of that yesteryear-glow. The Talich hasn’t the X-ray quality of the Hagen’s, and the modern accuracy, energy, and clearly defined edges the Takács and Pražák Quartets bring to the table. In that sense the Talich are not a must-have set… but they are a lovely-to-have set and available again, thanks to La Dolce Volta, who have access to the entire Caliope catalog.

The Talich Quartet, a Bohemian soul


‘The Conservatory of Europe’ – that used to be the nickname of Bohemia. At the heart of central Europe, a people dedicated itself wholly to the art of melody. In the nineteenth century, when Czech musicians were recognised as great composers as well as performers, they gave birth to a repertory steeped in traditions, its inspiration passed on from generation to generation.


Václav Talich, a conductor of genius, was one of the most prominent central European artists in the following century. In 1964, Talich’s nephew Jan founded the string quartet that bears his name. In 1975 it became a chamber ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic, a distinction that quickly gained it international recognition. France became its second home, and thanks to the Calliope label it made some of the great benchmark recordings in the quartet discography, from Mozart to Janáček. La Dolce Volta has since taken up the torch and pursues an adventure too exciting to be interrupted.


For half a century now, even though the bows have changed hands, the quartet’s personality has displayed marked stylistic continuity: spontaneous expressiveness, delicious unpredictability of attack, telling accentuation of folk rhythms, absolute precision and, equally, a sensation of miraculous fragility. Throughout the years, the Talich Quartet has remained the ambassador of a prodigious musical history, nourished by the memory of the torrents and castles of Bohemia, of tales and legends, and of the passions of the Czech people even before it was established as a nation in the aftermath of the First World War. The quartet’s multi-award-winning recordings mirror their interpretation of Janáček’s Second Quartet, ‘Intimate Letters’: the most enchanting of conversations in music.

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