These recordings, which until now lay virtually hidden in the archives of the Library of Congress, span nearly the entire length of the Budapest's residency at the Library. This remarkable set showcases performances of youthful ardor from the early 40s, as well as those deep and mature reflective performances which project the visceral excitement of the Budapest's onstage persona. The Budapest's exceptionally warm sound in these performances displays the quality of the famous Stradivarius instruments that the quartet played on at their Library concerts. The Budapest Beethoven cycles is being sold at a special price- three discs for the price of two. Bridge Records has taken great care in the restoration of these rarities- concerts that only a lucky few were privileged to hear at the original sold out performances, when the audiences regularly lined up around the block for tickets. Bridge has documented the set with extensive annotation by Harris Goldsmith.
This three-CD set presents live performances from the Library of Congress by the most famous chamber ensemble of them all. Dates range from 1941 to 1960, capturing the Budapest in its prime. Compared with their more sedate, though still hugely impressive studio recordings, the group plays here with greater abandon and risk-taking. It pays off handsomely in more nuanced phrasing, greater intensity, especially in slow movements, and some recklessly fast speeds that add to the thrills. As expected, the 1960 performances are better-sounding sonically, though not completely without intonation problems; the earlier performances are almost flawless, but in boxy, dated sound. These interpretations still stand high among the best available, presenting a highly dramatic, thrustful Beethoven with the added excitement only live concert performances can give. --Dan Davis