"We have just been treated here in the South of France to two rare concerts in two days by this legendary ensemble...At Beaulieu, as part of the Classic Festival, they played Dvorak, and in Fayence, as part of the String Quartet Festival of the Pays de Fayence, they played Bach, Barber, Bruckner and Beethoven. It is an extraordinary story: the quartet was founded in 1946 and the personnel has changed both much and little since. There have been only two leaders at the first violin desk, but the other three desks have seen more frequent change. And as a record collector I would say that the early reputation was for an extreme precision but also a wiry, taut sound, which suited their devotion to new music and indeed especially to new American music. The precision has remained but the taut sound has evolved to an exceptional exchange between lean and lush, and to a bewilderingly apt subtlety of tempo. The highlights were the Dvorak so-called “American” quartet (Beaulieu, Saturday 16th) and Beethoven’s vast Op.131 (Fayence, Sunday 17th), in both of which the sheen of precision was finely matched by our feeling of the raw presence of the fiddle. In the Dvorak especially, a piece riddled with the influences of native folk music, I had never before heard so well the lurking open-air barn-dance element that is epitomised by the shindig scene with Henry Fonda in John Ford’s “My Darling Clementine”. Even in the Beethoven, written for the quartet led by a man with the fiddle-rich name Schuppanzigh, the man who complained of the technical difficulties and to whom Beethoven famously retorted, “What do I care about your damned fiddle?!” – even here we were treated to rare insights of the flowering of folk instinct into high art of the deepest humanity."
(Jonathon Brown At Large, September 18, 2017)