I am pleased to say that in 1999, I was able to see a live
performance by the Guarneri String Quartet, given at UCLA’s
Schönberg Hall. Formed in 1964, they soon became known as
one of the finest quartets in the world, and collaborated
with some of the premiere artists, including pianist
Recently, I watched a performance of this prized cultural
institution, released in 2005 by the VAI label. Here, violinist
Arnold Steinhardt (1937 – ), violinist John Dalley (1935 – ),
violist Michael Tree (1934 – ), and cellist David Soyer (1923-2010)
performed two Beethoven string quartets, “Quartet No. 9 in
C Major, Opus 59, No. 3,” which was one of the “Razumovsky”
quartets, and “Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, Opus 95,” the last
of Beethoven’s “middle” quartets. These performances were
introduced by actor Hal Linden and presumably date from 1986,
with decent recorded sound for that era. The concert venue was
a beautiful mansion in the Old Westbury Gardens of
Long Island, New York.
In my earlier discussion of the Juilliard String Quartet performances
of some Beethoven string quartets, I commented on the musical
and emotional range of all 16 of these works, virtually spanning
his entire compositional career. By the time his three “Opus 59”
string quartets were written, Beethoven was already exploring
new harmonic worlds, having snapped the ties of Classicism.
When “Opus 95 in F Minor” was written in 1810, his writing was
already moving forward to the rarefied world of the “late” quartets.
In this beautiful 19th Century setting, the members of the
Guarneri Quartet performed these two works as if they were
newly composed, still retaining a sense of wonder, which
belied the years they had been performing them. I found their
playing to be technically and emotionally beyond reproach, and
would recommend this 58-minute DVD to anyone interested
in chamber music.