[Various artists]

This is another in the excellent series of Universal Trios that offer three CDs at a very affordable price. If you are looking to start a classical music collection or expand your collection into unfamiliar areas, then the Universal Trios collection now offers you brilliant recordings by top artists of much of the significant repertoire. Viktoria Mullova and Gidon Kremer give excellent performances of the No 1 and No 2 violin concertos respectively. No 1 is the sweeter of the two and Mullova’s is the more romantic interpretation but Kremer excels in the intricacies of No 2. Heinrich Schiff also gives fine performances of the cello concertos.

[Takacs Quartet]

This is the second instalment in the Takacs’ Beethoven Quartet project. Their recording of the middle quartets was released to great acclaim and a number of awards 18 months ago and their final instalment of the magnificent late quartets is due at the end of this year in time for their Musica Viva Australian tour.

As Takacs’ Edward Dusinberre reminds us, in a note to this recording, although it is tempting to look at these early works for what they prefigure about the astounding late quartets, that is to miss the considerable charms and melodic riches intrinsic to the works themselves.

This music crackles with vitality, wit and daring ingenuity. Throughout these pieces we enjoy dialogue, startling juxtapositions of mood, rhythmic ingenuity, innovative textures, and passages of extraordinary beauty and mystery, Dusinberre writes.

This is indeed true of these compositions but is particularly true of these versions by Takacs.

Good quartet playing is all about the rolling dialogue between players and this is something that Takacs achieves with an almost uncanny perfection. There is not a pause that is not deliberate to the millisecond -“ this is playing of extraordinary dexterity. They bring a sense of absolute clarity and confidence to these works, which is compelling.

The structure of this music is of course based on theme and repetition but Beethoven creates something much more haunting than a mathematics of duplication, he creates a rolling dialogue of echoes and this is exactly what Takacs emphasise.

These are marvellous discs and the recorded sound is magnificently full and clear.

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