The Quartetto Italiano is regarded as one of the finest string quartets of the twentieth century. The ensemble’s repertory was broad and included the entire quartet outputs of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Webern, and selected works of Galuppi, Vivaldi, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich, Villa-Lobos, Schoenberg and many others. They were formed officially in 1945 and by the early 1950s they had achieved a measure of international celebrity, but by the 1960s the ensemble had developed a worldclass reputation. Between 1967 and 1975 they recorded all the Beethoven string quartets for Philips as well as the complete quartets by Mozart, Schumann, Brahms and Webern. They rarely collaborated with other soloists, but did so notably on Brahms’s Piano Quintet op.34 with Maurizio Pollini in 1974.
The Quartetto Italiano recorded all this repertoire in the studio, but we have here some rare BBC live performances from 1965 given in the Royal Festival Hall. They are recorded in excellent stereo and issued for the very first time.
The only performance by the Quartetto of the Boccherini to be previously released is a 1956 mono studio recording, so this live performance in stereo from nine years later is an important addition to their discography.
The Quartetto Italiano recorded all the Mozart Quartets and the Penguin Guide said ‘As a set, the performances have seen off all challengers for two decades or more.’ Mozart’s Quartet No.17 K458 ‘The Hunt’ is here presented live in a wonderfully dedicated performance.
The Beethoven Quartet No.15 op.132 has likewise been recorded in the studio – the Penguin Guide said, ‘The merits of the Italian Quartet’s performances are considerable. The sonority that they produce is beautifully blended and splendidly focused.’ Critics hailed it as the best since the Busch version, three decades earlier. This is a great performance of Beethoven’s masterpiece.