Sunday, October 31, 2010

Budapest Quartet Beethoven Middle Quartets 1951-52

Earlier today someone asked me if I were going to do a Halloween post. As I was already working on these Budapest early 50's recordings of the Beethoven middle quartets, I will simply say, as a nod to All Souls eve, that it is downright scary that these fine and famous recordings are not on CD.

Bridge records has a set of the group doing the middle quartets in live performances dating 1940-1960, but I have been unable to find this Columbia commercial set, performances which for many set the standard for the time. One link promised to bring me to a site that had these performances in digital format, but the link led to a German photographic site, so I plowed forward with my own restorations.

If I can find the early and late quartets from this early fifties essay, I will put those up too. At present I have only the later stereo version of those works by the Budapest.

Have a bewitching time listening to these justly famous recordings.



22 comments:

  1. Thank you once again for a generous gift, Larry!

    The Budapest Beethoven recordings are old friends.

    I also have warm memories of the Philips mono edition of the Hungarian Quartet. Both the Budapest Quartet and the Hungarian Quartet later made recorded complete cycles of Beethoven quartets in stereo sound (Budapest - CBS, Hungarian - EMI).

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  2. Hi sturla: I do have the complete later stereo recording with the Budapest, and there is a set of the early quartets from '51-'52 available that I am probably going to buy, against my better financial judgment, I should add.

    Do you know the 1952 Vegh Recordings, available on Music & Arts? I've been listening to the whole set carefully and am quite taken with it. The restored sound is glorious.

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  3. Hi, Thank you for these! Acually, they have been on CD, in an 8-disc box of the Quartet's complete early '50s Beethoven cycle on the short-lived (and excellent) United Archives label, cat. no. variously UAR 001 or UAR 001.8. This label was shut down for a while by its owner, when the multinational big-media dogs looked set to take over the manger, but I think it's now back in circulation and I have seen the set for sale here and there. Anyway, you're doing nothing wrong (and a lot right!), so don't let that stop you - and thanks again for your nice uploads. Nick

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  4. CharmNick: United Archives was the reference I saw on line, but I could not get to any site that mentioned music, just, as I mentioned, the photographic site (maybe stock photo; I don't read German). I would be eager to get the whole set when I can afford it. My own files come from an Odyssey reissue and records whose surfaces were quite clean but some of which had a slight warp. I did not seem to unduly affect pitch, but there are a few clunks where the light weight stylus is hanging on for dear life.

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  5. Hi, all of you Beethoven chamber music lovers, foremost of whom is Larry Austin!

    Beethoven's string quartets have been recorded so exceedinly often, but it is surprising how few of the cycles or sets really compete with ANY of the Budapest String Quartet's recordings, even with the latest of them (which are not quite so fine as the Budapest's earlier series).

    For me, the great cycles, of all or of most of these string quartets, are by the Lener, Busch, Budapest quartets and the Quartetto Italiano.

    These named are so good that, along with the fine Amadeus String Quartet cycle for slightly junior status, maybe the Yale String Quartet, too, for some listeners, one cannot learn much more about these works from other, later recordings, albeit a few are probingly clinical but too heartless compared to those earlier sets.

    A transfer, if one is needed, of the Lener recordings would be welcome, too, but the Budapest recordings that you are digitally restoring, Larry, are those which deserve first attention! Bravo!

    Pax, Jerry Parker

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  6. L.A. ---I bought that United Archives set when it was available ... my understanding was that the label had run into some legal difficulties and ceased operations. Recently some of their backstock has shown up at remainder houses. Too bad, because they were issuing some good stuff and I liked their CD design. In any case, these Budapest Quartet recordings are in the public domain just about everywhere in the world and there's no reason to keep them hidden! While I was typing this, I could see the web archive list to the right of the comment box --- you've got a long and impressive list going!

    I have several CDs of the Lener Quartet's Beethoven on the Rockport Classics label, but have no idea if they are still available.

    Thanks for all the hard work (and music.)

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  7. maready: Thanks for the kind comments. If I see that United Archives set (and have cash on hand) I'll pick it up. A cross country move and vandalism in a remote country home early in my New Mexico adventure mean that I only have the middle quartets of these 1950s performances, and they hold a special place in my affections.

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  8. Lawrence --- do you ever order from Berkshire Record Outlet? They seem to have gotten the last of the United Archives leftovers --- they don't have any more of the Budapest LVB or the mono Juilliard Schoenberg, but they still have a bunch of mono Szell and Walter (the transfer of the NYPO mono Brahms cycle is the best I've heard of those records), the Budapest Quartet and Horszowski in Schubert, the 'Complete Columbia Recordings 1946-1950' of Claudio Arrau, and for jazz fans, nice boxes of mono Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and Charlie Parker. The only Szell that I bought was the Symphonies 2/4 coupling and the sound (and the performance!) is great! But it looks like Vinyl Fatigue is the only place to get the Budapest Beethoven for now ...

    here's the Bershire Record Outlet for those who haven't shopped there (this is my search result for United Archives):

    http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com/search.php?row=0&text=&filter=all&Label=UNITED+ARCHIVES&genre=&RPP=25&pprice=&submit=Search

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  9. I would really like to hear the late quartets if you can get 'em. My first experience of op. 132 was with the Budapest, and wow. So if you could post those too that would be great. And thanks for these!

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  10. Hi Duck: I only have the late quartets in a later, stereo recording with the Budapest. If they are not readily available I'll put them on the "to do" list.

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  11. I could hardly thank you enough for this! The Budapests' Beethoven was the way I was "initiated" to chamber music... some 30 years ago! Not a bad way, indeed.
    I would very much appreciate if you could post the whole stereo series of the '60s.

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  12. Perhaps a little late to the party but I was able to snag a copy of the United Archives set this afternoon for about $50 USD. I'm nearly finished the first disc and I'm in heaven. A long day was met handsomely by a nice Australia Shiraz and these recordings. This is the 1951-52 8 disc set. Do the later Budapest Quartet recordings sound as majestic and coherent?

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  13. Zanth: I envy you the UA set at such a good price. Congratulations on your find.

    I like the later Budapest recordings; all the insight and musical wisdom they brought to bear on these works is there, but so are some technical problems brought on by age. That sort of thing does not usually bother me; I remember hearing Rudolph Serkin during his last tour doing the last three Beethoven sonatas. Yes, at 82 and already ill, he missed some notes. But -- my God! -- the musical insight and sheer humanity he brought to those performances make them stand out as an almost mystical experience. Still, if I had to have only one set of the Budapest Qt. in these works, I'd chose the 51-52 performances without hesitation.

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  14. Hi Lawrence,

    I've listened to the entire set now and I admire it very much. I think I will have a go at the later recording as well just to detect what you have mentioned: musical insight and humanity. If, at their later ages, they can draw out even more musicality from the works, then it would be a fine comparison. Finding that set on CD is quite simple, but I'd love both works on vinyl.

    As for this current set on CD, I can check the other location to see if they have one. If so, would you be interested in me picking it up for you and/or sending you their contact info so you could deal with them directly?

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  15. Zanth: If you know where one can get the 51-52 set on CD, by all means let me know. So far I've had no luck. Thanks.

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  16. hello everyone, i was reading your comments and was just posting to let you know that i have the (Budapest string Quartet Op. 59, No. 3 Beethoven Quartet No. 9 in C Major) if any one is interested. Please make offer and email me @ angeleyes_solo@yahoo.com

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  17. Hi Lawrence,

    Given that yesterday was Record Store Day, I made a concerted effort to visit every store in town just about. No luck on the 51-52 set.

    That said, if you should desire a copy, I am not opposed to ripping a copy for you and sending it your way.

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  18. Sorry for the tardy reply. My local shop doesn't have it but I will check their other locations. If that does not work out, I can rip it and upload for your convenience.

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  19. I have the early and late quartet albums of the 51-52 Budapest mono recordings. These are in near mint condition, and I have never had technical problems with them. Please email if you wouldlike to borrow these for transfer to CD.
    klein02420@rcn.com

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  20. Laurence - wonderful! My fifth set and possibly going to become my favourite, certainly lifelong friends at least. Thank you.

    Tim

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  21. Hi Tim: This is certainly my favorite set. But I confess that I have a real devotion to the Budapest Qt. The Vegh recording made about the same time, and available on Music and Arts, is also quite good -- very personal readings at times, but lovely.

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  22. you mentioned a possibly if one requested to get the 24/96k flac version of this Budapest Quartet Beethoven Middle Quartets from 1951-52. It would be an honor to hear as 24b/32b/96k/192k file make a difference.

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