Monday, November 28, 2011

Three by the Budapest Quartet

The reissue program continues with three recordings by the great Budapest String Quartet, from three different points in their career.  First is one of their early recordings, from the time when the Quartet's lineup still boasted two Hungarians, and three of its founding members.  These were first violinist Emil Hauser, violist István Ipolyi, and the Dutch cellist Harry Son; the newcomer was second violinist Josef Roisman, a Russian who would eventually become the quartet's leader:

Tchaikovsky: Quartet No. 2 in F, Op. 22 and
Dittersdorf: Quartet No. 6 in A - Minuet
Budapest String Quartet (Hauser-Roisman-Ipolyi-Son)
Recorded February 8, 9 and 11, 1929
HMV Album Series No. 134, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 121.83 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 48.98)

By the time of the following recording, Roisman had moved to the first violin chair, and only Ipolyi was left from the original lineup.  The Schneider brothers (Alexander and Mischa) now occupied the second violin and cello positions, respectively.  This lineup (1932-36) is considered by many to be the Budapest Quartet's greatest, and one of the few recordings from this period that has apparantly never been reissued on LP or CD is this, the only Haydn quartet that the Budapest Quartet was permitted to record for HMV after the Pro Arte Quartet was engaged to do its series for the Haydn Quartet Society.  (This particular work had, in fact, been part of the very first Society volume, but that was already out-of-print by the time this release appeared.)

Haydn: Quartet in G, Op. 54, No. 1
Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider)
Recorded April 24, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece Set DM-869, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 42.36 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 18.76)

Lastly, here is one of the Budapest Quartet's few recordings of a contemporary work, one actually written for them.  Even though Columbia had already successfully launched the LP format by the time of its issue, this recording was issued only on 78s, with the result that it is probably one of the Budapest Quartet's rarest recordings.  By this time, Boris Kroyt had long since replaced István Ipolyi as violist (so that now the group consisted entirely of Russians), and Alexander Schneider had left the Quartet in 1944 to freelance.  He returned in 1955, but in the meantime a succession of second violinists replaced him; at the time of this recording it was Edgar Ortenberg:

Hindemith: Quartet [old No. 5, new No. 6] in E-Flat
Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Ortenberg-Kroyt-Schneider)
Recorded April 2, 1945
Columbia Masterworks Set MM-797, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 64.08 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 31.15 MB)

A word about the numbering of Hindemith's quartets, which is a very confusing issue indeed!  During his lifetime he published six: Op. 10, Op. 16, Op. 22, Op. 32, and two in E-Flat, one in 1943 and one in 1945 - Hindemith stopped using opus numbers after Opus 50.  (The present Columbia set doesn't identify a number, merely "Quartet in E-Flat (1943)", but the 1943 quartet was published as "No. 5.")  During the 1990s, however, an early Quartet, Op. 2, was published and added to the canon; this - unfortunately - became Quartet No. 1, and the numbers of all the succeeding quartets were bumped ahead by one!  Hence, the Op. 22, his most popular, is now known as "No. 4" where it previously was known as "No. 3"; worse still, the 1943 E-Flat is now "No. 6" - while formerly the 1945 quartet was known as "No. 6 in E-Flat"!  What I wonder is, why couldn't the Op. 2 quartet have been labelled "No. 0" as with Bruckner's early D minor symphony?


  1. Bryan - many thanks for these wonderful downloads. In all my years of collecting I cannot recall ever seeing the Tchaikowsky set which must be pretty rare. I don't suppose you have the Andante Cantabile from the Op.11 Quartet allegedly issued by HMV as DB2222? I know there was a version issued as D1634 - whether the DB was a reissue of this version for some HMV territories I don't know - you know what HMV was like with its mysterious Special Lists and the like!

    Eddie S
    Suffolk U.K.

  2. Eddie - alas, I had the Andante Cantabile many years ago, but not now. When I did, it wasn't on HMV but on Victor Black Label 36339. I remember that it had the 1932-36 lineup of Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider, and thus would have been a later recording than D1634 could have been.

  3. Dear Bryan, thanks for the Budapest sets! Wonderful playing. Eddie - I have that record (D 1634) and I'll put it on my "to do" list.

  4. Bryan/Satyr - thank you both for your feedback.
    Having researched a little further, D1634 had the "original" Budapest lineup with Roisman on second violin and was available in the UK at least until 1939/40. It makes you wonder why a fresh version was made since sales obviously kept the first one in the catalogue so long.
    With a bit of luck perhaps some kind person will resuscitate the later version and post it for us to compare.

    Eddie S
    Suffolk U.K.

  5. I posted the D1634 (, but alas I don't own the DB2222. It's good to hear this music again - I plan to post the Haydn op.76 no.1 (D 1075-7) soon.

  6. The earlier versions of the Budapest SQ with Hauser on 1st are far better than later versions with more and more Russian players. The Haydn op 76 #1 from Satyr's collection with both Hauser and Pogany is far less crude than the Haydn op 54 #1 with Roisman and Schneider. Of course, the op 54 #1 performance is still in a vastly different league than later quartets, especially today's.

    The Tchaikovsky #2, unfamiliar to me, is strange and fabulous with a fairly conventional finale. I really am taken with the 2nd movement.

    Bryan - thanks so much for sharing your wonderful collection.

  7. Thank you for sharing these great recordings. Do you know the Budapest's first recording of Schubert's Quartet 13 in a minor?

    1. Yes; it's marvelous. It can be heard over at the CHARM website.

    2. "What I wonder is...." Because that would havw been too simple and straightforward for the musicologists and record


  8. Vielen Dank für diese feine Aufnahme.