Philips - 1 LP - 6500 646 - (p) 1975
Philips - 3 CDs - 420 046-2 - (c) 1989

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 18 No. 2
25' 12"
- Allegro 8' 21"

- Adagio cantabile - Allegro - Tempo I 6' 41"

- Scherzo: Allegro 4' 21"

- Allegro molto, quasi presto
5' 49"

String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18 No. 4
25' 04"
- Allegro ma non tanto
9' 03"

- Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto 7' 24"

- Menuetto: Allegretto
4' 16"

- Allegro 4' 21"

- Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, violino
- Piero Farulli, viola
- Franco Rossi, violoncello


Luogo e data di registrazione
Musica-Théâtre, Salle de Musique, La-Chaux-de-Fonds (Svizzera) - 20-31 luglio 1975

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Tony Buczynski

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 646 | 1 LP | (p) 1975

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 420 046-2 | 3 CDs - 54' 02" - 47' 25" - 57' 28" - (1°, 5-8; 2°, 5-8) | (c) 1989 | ADD

L'edizione in CD contiene anche i Quartetti Op. 18 nn. 1, 3, 5 e 6.

In the set of six quartets which make up Op. 18, the G major has a distinctive quality that has earned it the nickname of "Komplimentierquartett." Many commentators have seen in the opening movement particularly, which enunciates no less than three distinct themes in the short space of only eight bars, a backward took into a rococo world of gallantry, of lie-wigs, of courtly bows and flourishes. One could regard as somewhat of an old-world flourish the opening figure in the first bar, to which the second motive, sharply rhythmic and, like the first, only two bars long, makes a marked contrast; it in turn is followed by a third which is totally different again, a compact melodic theme four bars long. In Beethoven's first sketches this opening figure is already in its finished form, and is clearly basic, and not merely ornamental; this is carried into the eventual thematic development of the completed work, where, in fact, the first two figures are predominant. For the rest the clearly differentiated development of the three may easily be followed as the movement unfolds.
Although Beethoven normally produces the most luxuriant developments from a simple theme, in this movement he systematically deploys a kaleidoscopic multiplicity of ideas within the first few bars. The smallness of scale is doubless deliberate, in contrast to the advice Haydn is said to have given his pupils, that they should extract and develop as much as possible from one single idea. The attractive, four-bar, dance-like melody occurs first of all in the background reappearing later at the two-points of crystallisation, the end of the exposition and the beginning of the development; and at the end of the movement it has the last word, the culminating point of the dialogue.
In the Adagio cantabile which follows, even more richly developed ornamental figures form a link with the first movement. Into this Adagio, which in form must be regarded as breaking new ground, Beethoven introduced an Allegro, a device he also used in the finale of the Quartet in B flat, Op. 18 No. 6; the nickname "La malinconia" points up the tempo changes and not only, as is sometimes supposed, the slow section. In this G major Quartet, the opening motive of the Allegro is taken from the closing cadence of the Adagio. In the first sketches for this second movement there is no trace of this fast intermezzo, from which one may conclude that it was only when the work had reached a fairly advanced stage that Beethoven decided to use this device.
The following Scherzo, though lacking some of the dybamic and rhythmic refinements so beloved by Beethoven in such movements, is lively and joyful, and completely clear and trasparent in texture: some of the motives in it reappear quite soon in the finale. This last movement is the weightiest in the quartet, if only by reason of its extent. In contrast to the variety of idea in the opening movement, it is rigidly constructed on one main theme, which is first introduced in a dialogue between the cello and the other instruments. This movement bears abundant witness to the justice of the observation that Beethoven was particularly concerned with improving the status of last movements.

Some mystery surreunds the C minor Quartet, which plainly does not really belong in this set, and which in parts may be regarded as a relic of the last years in Bonn. In the absence of sketches, such as we have for the other five quartets of Op. 18, any conclusions about dating the work must be tentative; conclusion about other works have been set right by later discoveries. Hugo Riemann, arguing from close study of the style, claimed that he could pick out obvious weaknesses in the work; the lack of contrast between the two themes of the opening movement, he said, betrayed the hand of the young Beethoven of the Bonn years, still bearing the imprint of the Mannheim school, and more particularly of its leading figures, Cannabich and Carl Stamitz. Vincent d'Indy, on the other hand, lays particular stress on the similarily between the first movement and that of the Septet, and points to a relationship with the First Symphony that he finds in the fugal openings of both second movements - yet another approach to the problem of dating the work! Particularly noteworthy is the connexion between the quartet and a duet in E flat for viola and cello with the jocular title "Duet for two Obbligato Eyeglasses" - a piece obviously written for two short-sighled players. Some bars of the opening subject of the duet have a striking resemblance to parts of the conclusion of the second subject in the corresponding movement of the quartet.
Whatever be the answer to the problem of dating the work, there is no doubt that from the very first bars we find Beethoven completely in his element, revelling in a passionate outpouring of beautiful sound. The key of C minor had a particular attraction for him. Among other works, it is the key of the eleven-year-old composer's "Dressler" Variations, of the "Pathetique" Sonata, the Fifht Symphony, and the last Piano Sonata.
A comparison of the relevant movements of these two quratets, the G major and the C minor, reveals to us how wide was the span of Beethoven's conception of the Scherzo. In the C minor, the Scherzo not only takes the place of the slow movementm but also resembles one in its contents, and tension is finally resilved only in the following minuet. The finale is in C minor, but a different kind of C minor from the first movement: here we have a series of short, rapid sections, agreable and entertaining, in contrast to the tragic and framatic atmosphere of the opening.
Hans Schmidt
Beethoven-Archiv, Bonn

The Quartetto Italiano is deservedly one of the most renowned quartets of our time. It was as long ago as 1945, soon after completing their studies, that Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, Piero Farulli, and Franco Rossi, resisting the tempting promise of individual career sas soloists, decided to pool their youthful enthusiasm and musical talent and devote themselves to the difficult but satisfying art of playing chamber music really well. By 1947 the group had established a firm reputation in  the musical press and begun giving concerts outside Italy. In 1951 they visited the United States for the first time, and it was soon apparent that their devotion to their music and the impeccable standards of performances they had set for themselves were earning them fame as well as satisfaction. Over the years since 1945 they have remained together, a rare example of team work in music.
To list the group’s wide-ranging activities in more than 25 years is pointless: they have done everything one might expect of one of the world’s finest quartets. They have given hundreds of concerts all over Europe and in the United States; they are regular partecipants in the chamber-music concours of many countries; and they have played and are in constant demand at the world’s great music festivals. Outside the concert circuit the members of the quartet teach chamber music at both the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and the Conservatoire in Vienna.
In addition to the many words of praise bestowed on them – after their first concert in New York, Virgil Thomson, the distinguished critic of the “New York Herald Tribune,” called them “the finest quartet, unquestionably, that our century has known” – they have been publicy honoured by the President of Italy as a more tangible recognition of their outstanding artistic services over the years to  Italy in particular and the world of music in general.