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80222 Budapest Quartet play Beethoven (vol 2) 1 CD Set
bar code: 744718022229
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2 String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat, Op. 130
total timing: 64:36
first appearance of all five recordings on CD the complete Beethoven recordings of the final form of the Budapest Quartet featuring Roisman as first violinist
Some elements of the Budapest Quartet story are well known: during a career of half a century, a Hungarian/Dutch foursome metamorphosed into an all-Russian ensemble and then established itself in the US. It was often driven by internal dissension and six men occupied its second violin chair (Alexander Schneider having two stints). One of three quartets to emerge from the orchestra of the Budapest Opera, it was senior by a year to its main rival, the Léner Quartet. Not only was the leader, Emil Hauser, a pupil of Hubay but so were second violinist Alfred Indig and violist Istvan Ipolyi. Its founder, Rotterdam-born cellist Harry Son, had studied with David Popper. The quartet was organised on revolutionary lines and everything was decided democratically, each man having a vote. Its debut came in December 1917 at Kolozvar (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania) and early in 1918 it appeared with success in Budapest. Indig's departure in 1920 hardly caused a ripple - his replacement was another Hubay disciple, Imre Pogany.
The four moved to Berlin, where they debuted in the 1921-2 season. They already knew 65 works, including all the Beethovens and a good deal of modern music. Their Rome debut was made in 1922, their London debut in 1925. Their first issued records for HMV (after unsuccessful 'acoustic'
sessions) came in 1926. When a major bust-up caused Pogany to leave for the US in mid-1927, he was replaced by Joseph Roisman, a Russian from Odessa who, though only seven years younger than Hauser, was a more '
modern' player. So many disagreements over style ensued that, early in 1931, just before a world tour, Son resigned (he later died in the Holocaust). In came another Russian, Mischa Schneider. With the players split between two styles, the voting had to be modified: as each work was taken into their repertoire, they drew lots and the winner was assigned two votes for that piece in perpetuity. Thus, if two wanted a faster tempo and two favoured a slower, the member who 'owned' the work (or his successor) had the last word.
The Budapest toured the Far East and made its New York debut in January 1931 but there was so much tension that in 1932 Hauser quit (he went on to become head of the Jerusalem Conservatory and saved the lives of many young European Jewish musicians). Roisman was elevated to leader and Schneider's younger brother, Alexander - the most vital musician ever to play in the group - became second fiddle. The last Hungarian, Ipolyi, stuck it out until the summer of 1936, by which time he had been driven to a breakdown; the others then brought in a fourth Russian, Boris Kroyt.
Both recordings on this disc come from that transitional period.
As one of HMV's 'house quartets', the Budapest had to share the repertoire with other ensembles, notably the Busch and Pro Arte. The first recordings under Roisman's leadership were made in the wood-panelled Beethovensaal in Berlin, quite a good venue; but after the accession to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933, life became not just unpleasant for Jewish musicians in the German capital but unsafe. The foursome therefore moved to Paris, but fortunately did not record there -
the French equipment and technicians lagged some way behind the London set-up, the world's finest. EMI, the blanket organisation for both HMV and Columbia since 1930, now had purpose-built studios in Abbey Road, St John's Wood, and it was there - in Studio No.3 - that Beethoven's
Op.59/2 was set down. It required just 11 takes for eight sides and became one of the group's best-sellers - in Classical works the slight disparity in playing styles between Ipolyi and the others was not as noticeable as it was in, say, Brahms. The B flat Quartet had a more complicated history. The Hauser-led Budapest recorded the first five movements (using two different second violinists) and also (with Pogany) made a terrific version of the Grosse Fuge, Op.133, Beethoven's original finale, which was sold separately (although the album for Op.130 had two empty pockets to receive it). That left Beethoven's substitute Allegro finale unrecorded, so the Roisman-led group did it as their final Berlin project and it was released on a separate disc (HMV DB 2144). The first five movements were then re-recorded in London eight months later; and the Allegro finale was given another issue number when the complete six movements were sold as a package. The Budapest did not make a recording of the Grosse Fuge under Roisman's leadership until the early days of LP, in America.