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Issued to commemorate the Cuarteto Casals’ 20th anniversary, this is an auspicious beginning to a complete cycle. The group uses 18th-century bows on modern instruments. This set is called ‘Inventions’: later will come ‘Revelations’, then ‘Apotheoses’. There is one disc for quartets from each of Beethoven’s three periods.

Detail is hugely important to this ensemble. Even in the impulsive, vital first movement of Op 18/1, every line and accent can be heard. The Cuarteto Casals is also able to move inside the soundworld of each period: the Adagio of Op 18/1 is remarkably still, but impeccable early Beethoven. Perhaps there could be a touch more humour in places.

Interesting to include the string quartet version of Piano Sonata Op 14/1 alongside a dramatic, grand-vista reading of Razumovsky No 1. The Op 127 is magnificently multi-layered and the finest performance here; Op 135 occasionally tends towards the narcissistic.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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