Beethoven / String Quartet / Grosse Fuge / Quartetto Italiano

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

  • This wonderful Philips recording makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This is a superb recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of chamber music you own
  • This copy showed that it had the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the tone of the violins, viola and cello
  • Above all, the recording sounds natural and real, and with Shootout Winning sides, this pressing was the most natural and most real of all the copies we played

This vintage Philips pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What Amazing Sides Such as These Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on this wonderful Classical release

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

String Quartet No. 13 In B Flat Major, Op. 130

1st Movt: Adagio Ma Non Troppo – Allegro
2nd Movt: Presto
3rd Movt: Andante Con Moto Ma Non Troppo. Poco Scherzando
4th Movt: Alla Danza Tedesca (Allegro Assai)
5th Movt: Cavatina (Adagio Molto Espressivo)

Side Two

Gross Fuge In B Flat Major, Op. 133

Overture (Allegro)
Meno Mosso E Moderato
String Quartet No. 13 In B Flat Major, Op. 130 (Conclusion)

6th Movt: Finale

Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13

The String Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130, by Ludwig van Beethoven was completed (in its final form) in November 1826. The number traditionally assigned to it is based on the order of its publication; it is actually Beethoven’s 14th quartet in order of composition. It was premiered (in its original form) in March 1826 by the Schuppanzigh Quartet and dedicated to Nikolai Galitzin on its publication in 1827.

Beethoven originally wrote the work in six movements, lasting 42–50 minutes, as follows:

  1. I. Adagio, ma non troppo – Allegro (B♭ major)
  2. II. Presto (B♭ minor)
  3. III. Andante con moto, ma non troppo. Poco scherzoso (D♭ major)
  4. IV. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai (G major)
  5. V. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo (E♭ major)
  6. VI. Große Fuge (Grande Fugue Op.133): Ouverture. Allegro – Meno mosso e moderato – Allegretto – Fuga. [Allegro] – Meno mosso e moderato – Allegro molto e con brio – Allegro (B♭)

(Nomenclature: “danza tedesca” means “German dance”, “Cavatina” a short and simple song, and “Große Fuge” means “Great Fugue” or “Grand Fugue”.)

The work is unusual among quartets in having six movements. They follow the pattern of movements seen in the Ninth Symphony and occasionally elsewhere in Beethoven’s work (opening, dance movement, slow movement, finale), except that the middle part of the cycle is repeated: opening, dance movement, slow movement, dance movement, slow movement, finale.

New Finale

Negative reaction to the work’s final movement at the first performance, and his publisher’s urging, led Beethoven to write a substitute for the final movement, a contradanse much shorter and lighter than the enormous Große Fuge it replaced. This new finale was written between September and November 1826 and is the last complete piece of music Beethoven composed before his death in March 1827. It is marked:

Finale: Allegro in B♭ major

Beethoven never witnessed a performance of the quartet in its final form; it was premiered on 22 April, 1827, nearly a month after his death.

The original finale was published separately under the title Große Fuge as opus 133. Modern performances sometimes follow the composer’s original intentions, leaving out the substitute finale and concluding with the fugue. Robert Simpson argues that Beethoven’s intentions are best served by playing the quartet as a seven-movement work, with the Große Fuge followed by the replacement finale.


Grosse Fuge

Beethoven originally wrote the fugue as the final movement of his String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130. His choice of a fugal form for the last movement was well grounded in tradition: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven himself had previously used fugues as final movements of quartets. But in recent years, Beethoven had become increasingly concerned with the challenge of integrating this Baroque form into the Classical structure. “In my student days I wrote dozens of [fugues] … but [imagination] also wishes to exert its privileges … and a new and really poetic element must be introduced into the traditional form,” Beethoven wrote.[9] The resulting movement was a mammoth work, longer than the five other movements of the quartet together.[10] The fugue is dedicated to the Archduke Rudolf of Austria, his student and patron.


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