Sunday, October 30, 2011

The L.S.Q. and the L.S.Q.

Léner String Quartet
In the early 1920s English Columbia had two different string quartet ensembles that could claim the initials "L.S.Q."  The first was the London String Quartet, which began recording for Columbia in 1914, then about 1920 jumped ship and moved to Vocalion.  They eventually returned in 1924, but while they were away, a different "L.S.Q." came on board - the Léner String Quartet, founded in 1918 by four students at the High School of Music in Budapest: Jenö Léner, Jozsef Smilovits, Sándor Roth and Imre Hartman.  At first they were heard on records only in isolated string quartet movements, usually abridged, but by 1923 they had recorded their first complete quartet, Mozart's K. 465 (a work they never re-recorded):

Mozart: Quartet No. 19 in C, K. 465 ("Dissonance")
Léner String Quartet
Recorded November 7 & 8, 1923
English Columbia L 1545 through 1548, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 81.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 31.38 MB)

The following year they recorded their first complete Beethoven quartet - and they would become famous for being the first group to record a complete Beethoven cycle:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 14 in C-Sharp minor, Op. 131
Léner String Quartet
Recorded February 11, 21, 22 and August 25, 1924
English Columbia L 1581 through 1585, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 116.2 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 43.77 MB)

The above two sets had the distinction, along with the Léners' recording of Haydn's Op. 76, No. 5, of being the first complete string quartets available to the American record buyer, being part of the initial release of Columbia's new "Masterworks" album series of complete works.  The Beethoven was Set No. 6, the Haydn No. 7 and the Mozart No. 8.  (The first five had all been symphonies.)

In 1924 the London String Quartet returned to the English Columbia fold, their initial release being this first complete recording of Haydn's "Emperor":

Haydn: Quartet in C, Op. 76, No. 3 ("Emperor")
London String Quartet
Recorded December 15 and 17, 1924
English Columbia L 1633 through 1635, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 73.38 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.96 MB)

By this time the London String Quartet was being led by James Levey, with founding members Thomas Petre, H. Waldo Warner and C. Warwick Evans covering the other parts.

For those interested in the London String Quartet, I highly recommend a new release on the Music & Arts label, a survey of their concerts at the Library of Congress from 1943-1951.


  1. Wonderful! I posted the Léner Mozart earlier, but I suppose the American pressing will be much better than the english one... Thanks for all the good work!

  2. I have (among a collection of others). The two records of the Quarte in G Mayor no 19 of Mozart edited by Columbia and played by the Lener String Quartet.
    Do you know how can I know the price of it if I want to sell

  3. I own Lener's Debussy Quartet on the rare Columbia Royal Blue pressings. Interested to know date of recording (the Royal Blues appeared from 1932-'36). Thanks.

    1. CHARM, which has this recording available for download (via its British incarnation as L 2141-44) gives a date of March 15, 1928. In the USA the set was available from 1929 to c. 1942; your Royal Blues were therfore from the middle of that run.

  4. Thanks Bryan. I usually write these things down somewhere unobtrusive on the album. I find it enhances the Benjaminian "aura" and yet grounds the music in reality as an artifact of a time. (I learned to write like this while getting my master's, btw.)

  5. Thanks again for this trio of records