Alan Rich
June 14, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Beethoven: String Quartets, Opp. 59, 74, 95

Current Status
In Season
RCA Red Seal

We gave it an A

The shortage of great opera singers continues; conductors no longer grow on every tree. It’s hard not to notice, however, that we live in a golden age of string quartets. The Tokyo has contributed handsomely to that age since its formation in 1969. Its famous elegant tone has, if anything, gotten more robust at no cost to sheen. Perhaps the world doesn’t cry out for another set of the Beethoven quartets to supplement the 10 or so available, yet the Tokyo’s explorations in String Quartets (the first installment of yet another complete series) of the lavish panorama of the composer’s ”middle” period are superb, every one. The range of styles is vast: The ecstatic contemplations of infinity in the first of the three Op. 59 quartets; the giggling, virtuoso turns in the third; the crabby half-statements in the Op. 95 quartet that resolve in a fit of happy hysterics at the end. The performers are perfectly in tune with each other and with the music. A

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