'Brahms: String Quartets (No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2, and No. 3 in B flat, Op. 67),' Végh Quartet
Sándor Végh and Sandor Zöldy, violins; Georges Janzer, viola; Paul Szabo, cello. (Decca Heritage)
The Végh Quartet, founded by a Hungarian foursome in 1940 and headed for decades by first violinist Sándor Végh, was never a model of peerless technique. Yet its recordings—notably, Beethoven and Bartók cycles—have long been prized for their generous expressivity and varied tone colors. Decca has reissued the quartet's 1954 mono treatment of two Brahms quartets, complete with the original ugly cover art and a miniscule reproduction of the LP liner notes. There's nothing ugly or small-scaled about the performances, though. From beginning to end, we hear impassioned playing at moderate tempos. Although Végh's own tone can be piercing at forte and above, the ensemble is anchored by the firm, rich bass line of cellist Paul Szabo. The group's conception of the A-minor quartet is essentially tragic (listen to the slashing chords midway through the finale), but pierced with rays of hope. The treatment of the B flat quartet is more good-natured, full of warmth and spirit. It's good to have these very central-European performances back in the catalog.