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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2020

The contents of this album may be generally divided into two categories. The first is comprised of pieces from Beethoven’s “exercise” workbooks of 1790 to 1795 in which he was learning the science and practicing the art of writing for a string quartet.

No performances I’ve heard of any of these pieces, however, surpass these performances by the venerable Fine Arts Quartet.

…I can heartily recommend the Fine Arts Quartet as the chef de cuisine. © 2020 Fanfare Read complete review

David Threasher
Gramophone, April 2020

The Fine Arts Quartet offer ‘Fugues and Rarities’, ranging from early versions of Op 18 No 1 and the first movement of Op 131—all elements instantly recognisable but caught at a point before Beethoven had marshalled his material into the indelible classic forms as we know them. Attempts at fugues both early and late (and a transcription of one from Handel’s Solomon) trace the rocky road to the Grosse Fuge, with which the disc closes. © 2020 Gramophone

J├╝rgen Schaarw├Ąchter, March 2020

Fine Arts Quartet, from the first bar of its latest Beethoven recording, is impressive in its great freshness, clarity and audibility of playing. © 2020

Barry Forshaw
Classical CD Choice, February 2020

The string quartets are among the finest works in music, but Beethoven composed other works for quartet which have been overlooked—such as the rarities found here. We have the original versions of his quartets Op. 18, No. 1 and Op. 131, plus six unknown miniatures, including his Preludes and Fugues. All are impeccably played by the Fine Arts Quartet. © 2020 Classical CD Choice Read complete review

Records International, February 2020

Intriguing rarities. Alongside the wild and monumental Grosse Fuge, this recording further displays Beethoven’s mastery of counterpoint by bringing to light brilliant yet forgotten original versions of his quartets Op. 18, No. 1 and Op. 131, plus six virtually unknown miniatures, including his Preludes and Fugues. © 2020 Records International

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2020

I presume that by the end of this coming year every single note Beethoven wrote will be available on disc, this one called, ‘Fugues and Rarities for String Quartet’.

I have condensed the heading, but will now explain its contents, the release forming part of Naxos’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth. He was just twenty-nine, and still conscious of his shortcomings, when he composed his first string quartet that later become part of six quartets given the opus number 18, and he was also to revise it before publication. Without making a detailed analysis, the most obvious divergence is the difference in tempo markings, but from therein you may well think you are listening to the popular and familiar version, though, in fact, there are many other changes. There have been previous recordings, but this new one finds the Fine Arts Quartet in their most elegant mode. From those uncertain years, the release is bookended by the Grosse Fuge, a work that started life as the massive culmination of the quartet Opus 130, but was later published separately. It is one of the greatest fugues ever composed, and the Fine Arts afford it a performance of considerable strength and vigour, the complex construction captured with clarity as each instrument is weighted with due care and attention. It does, however, avoid the rough-hewn approach now much in vogue. Between these extended works, we have the slightly shorter initial version of the original opening movement of the Fourteenth Quartet; two Preludes and Fugues in F and C major, together with a Fugue in D minor, all probably written as student exercises from 1795. A curious version of the fugue from Handel’s overture to Solomon here transcribed by Beethoven for string quartet; a Menuett from his twentieth year and a snippet Allegretto complete the disc. The German recording serves the Quartet exceedingly well. © 2020 David’s Review Corner

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