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The Record Geijutsu Disc Review, November 2013
Akira Takahashi recommends
The Lotus Quartet, based in Stuttgart and active throughout Europe, recorded this CD from November to December 2012 whilst on tour during their Japan performances. Although Haydn and Beethoven had a relationship of master and pupil, it can be said that they are the giants in terms of the musical history of the string quartet.
The Lotus Quartet offers a lively performance with Haydn's 'Fifths', each of the four parts of the ensemble being well-balanced with full vigour in a free and easy style, and bringing forth a closely knit and lively performance.
The finale in particular of the String Quartet Hob. III:34 [No. 27 in D major, Op. 20, No. 4] by the same composer is abundant with variations. In the third movement, the cello solo meandering round the other parts in a give and take of dialogue amongst the parts is very interesting. The Lotus Quartet performance completely recreates what is to be heard for the respective parts as provided by Haydn.
Although Beethoven's String Quartet in F major is the composer's arrangement of his own Piano Sonata No. 9, it sounds as if it were composed for string quartet (probably because he was good at making arrangements of his own works). The performance is lively, but at the same time keeping a crisp style with no contradiction in the least in the clear flow of all parts. I'd like for them to continue carrying on with these kinds of unique attempts.
Specially Selected Disc - Honourable Mention
The Lotus Quartet keeps coming out with new CD releases, although this one is not a live recording but rather a studio recording from late last year.
And what a unique selection of works - as if to say 'nothing ordinary here'. Placing Beethoven's work in between the two Haydn works would seem to be nothing special on first thought, but instead of placing Haydn's standard masterpiece 'Fifths' at the end of the disc, it was chosen to place at the end Haydn's other work, which was a comparatively early one (this being when he was 40 years old) which goes back about quarter century earlier than the former work. Moreover, they took on none of Beethoven's 16 original string quartet works but rather the composer's own arrangement of the piano sonata for string quartet.
The performance is truly a fine one. Starting off with the 'Fifths', the confidence and character of this quartet going to extraordinary lengths can be felt in the steady ensemble, which naturally amplifies the importance of the 'Fifths' as a historical masterpiece.
The Beethoven is also a well refined performance. This work, which could tend to feel off with an easy approach, sounded like a work originally composed for a quartet.
Haydn's String quartet in D major (Hob. III: 34; Op. 20 No. 4) is also a satisfying performance, which makes one remember that such works can be still found in unexpected places. The response to the slow movement by the variations in particular was the highlight. I believe that this quartet would be even better if they would have a little more playful spirit overall.
Masao MINEO [Recording critic]
From a 2012 session recording in Tokyo, this recording gives the impression of being in a smaller recital hall rather than a large one as I could not feel any direct reverberations. It definitely feels not dry but well under control. Although there are sections where the sound overall is a little narrow, it is clear where the orientation of the position of each performer is. Although this recording is music making with a high feeling of stability, it is not quite as good compared to their previous European recording. (91)
Ongaku Gendai, November 2013
The new CD release by the Lotus Quartet, who last year celebrated the 20th anniversary of their founding has an incredulous playlist ordering of Beethoven's String Quartet in F major which is the composer's own arrangement of his own Piano Sonata No. 9 placed in between Haydn's 'Fifths' and 'The Row in Venice'. Although there was a change in one of the original members of four Japanese women to Mathias NEUNDORF on second violin in 2005, there has been no change in the sense of classical shaping and tempered expression, [especially] with the bright, nice resonating sound and clear leadership of first violinist Sachiko KOBAYASHI, and the exquisite presence and limber, refined inner voice of cellist Chihiro SAITO. The music itself is orthodox but leaves the listener with an extremely satisfying feeling. This is a performance which allows the listener to actually feel the weight of a polished chamber music ensemble.
(Reviewed by Yasunori SATO)
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