|The Léner String Quartet|
The Léner String Quartet of Budapest were famed, in the 1920s, for being the first string quartet to record the complete quartets of Beethoven. A less ambitious undertaking, perhaps, but no less noteworthy, was their being the first to record the complete quartets of Brahms, in marvelously idiomatic performances, of which this is a sample:
Brahms: Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2
The Léner String Quartet
Recorded August 11 and 13, 1931
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 173, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 81.16 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 36.62 MB)
They actually recorded this particular quartet twice, the above recording replacing an acoustical version of 1925. It was my intention to bring you this earlier recording when I purchased this set, which was advertised in a mail order catalogue as Columbia Set 35 (the last acoustical set issued in the USA by Columbia). When I received the package, the album cover was indeed that for Set No. 35, but imagine my consternation upon unwrapping the actual records, to discover Royal Blue shellac pressings with "Electrical Process" on the labels!
My guess is that the store which sold this set in the 1930s had stocked Set No. 35 for years without selling it, then when Set No. 173 was released as its replacement, the distributor offered the new discs in exchange for the old ones, without the store's having to return the album as well, and therefore the new discs were sold housed in the old album. This is something that could have happened with a number of Léner Quartet sets, so I suppose the lesson to be learned here is that I shouldn't buy any more of their purported "acoustic" sets based on the set number only, that I should instead insist on being quoted the actual disc numbers; if they are indeed acoustical they will be below 67200-D. I guess I shouldn't gripe too much, because this is a beautiful performance of a great quartet, but I doubt that I would have paid $50 for it, particularly as it, unlike the acoustical version, has been reissued before, long out-of-print though it may be....