When I “discovered” Beethoven’s “late” quartets in my teens in the mid-1970s, I didn’t completely comprehend them (perhaps I still don’t!) but I quickly felt I’d entered another universe. The combination of originality, incongruity, geniality and profundity, culminating in the enigmatic sublime, transfixed me and still does. My introduction was with the equally sublime Quartetto Italiano on Philips and, like first love, it has cast a long shadow. However, these performances with the Tetzlaff Quartet are both impressive and moving, if a little cool at times.

Curiously, the A Minor, Op. 132 is placed first. Perhaps the Tetzlaffs resist the temptation to accentuate the stark contrasts or even conflict between suffering and joy, re-imaging them as more of a continuum – called life. There’s more joy in the first two movements than tragedy: indeed, in their hands, the second becomes a sort of quasi waltz with a dash of musette – like drone.

In the central Adagio movement, they maintain the tension and the profundity of the bare unearthly harmonies and transform them into rarefied musings vastly distant from the “Feeling...

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