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Every week, WRTI features a different album on the air. Learn more about them here.

Classical Album of the Week: Cuarteto Casals Plays Beethoven String Quartets

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December 16, 2019. This week, we're celebrating Beethoven’s birthday! Although the big birthday, the 250th comes next year, we’re celebrating nonetheless, because 249 is nothing to sneeze at.

Our album of the week features Beethoven’s string quartets. It’s Volume Two of the Spanish group Cuarteto Casals performances of the complete string quartets. Included in this volume are quartets nos. 2, 8, 9, 10 and 15.

Quarteto Casals was founded 22 years ago in the Escuela Reina Sofia in Madrid. It celebrated its 20th anniversary with an ambitious multi-year project: a six-concert series of the complete Beethoven quartets, performed in cities throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America, including London, Vienna, Berlin and Tokyo. This album is an offshoot of that tour.

The 16 quartets are among Beethoven’s most masterly works. The String Quartets Nos. 1-6, Opus 18 show his mastery of the classical string quartet as developed by Haydn and Mozart. The next three, or the Razumovsky Quartets, are extremely popular even today, as they greatly expanded the form and incorporated a new degree of emotional sensitivity and drama. These were followed by String Quartets Nos. 10 - 11, Opus 74 "Harp" and 95 "Serioso."

Music Web International finds “the performances of these well-known works to be breathtaking and enlightening, with the playing of the Cuarteto Casals a wonderful example of ensemble playing, each of the members instinctively knowing what the other three seem to be thinking, with the result being first rate performances [which are] bold and fly in the face of traditional performances, but they also breathe new life and vitality into the quartets.”