Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beethoven: Quartet No. 8 (Coolidge Quartet)

About a year ago, when I was doing my "reissue" series, I devoted one post to the Flonzaley Quartet and two groups that contained members of that famous ensemble after it disbanded.  One of these was the Coolidge Quartet, whose violist, Nicolas Moldavan, had been in the Flonzaley Quartet.  This very interesting group was founded in 1936 by violinist William Kroll, who remained the only constant presence in the quartet until its disbanding in 1944.  The other original members were violinist Nicolai Berezowsky and cellist Victor Gottlieb.

In 1937 they began recording for Victor, and a big project was undertaken: a complete recording at popular prices of the Beethoven string quartets.  It should be explained that until 1940, when all Red Seal records were reduced in price to $1 each per 12-inch disc, there were two tiers of pricing for them - a cheaper series at $1.50 and a more expensive series at $2.  The Coolidge Quartet's non-Beethoven recordings sold at the higher rate, as did recordings by other, more prestigious chamber music groups such as the Budapest and Busch quartets.  But with the price reduction, the Beethoven project sort of ran out of steam, and it stopped short, halfway, with the work I present here:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Pepper-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded in September, 1940
Victor Musical Masterpiece Set DM-919, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files,  80.44 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 40.61 MB)

By the time this recording was made, the American-born Jack Pepper had replaced Berezowsky as the group's second fiddle.  By the following year (1941), Moldavan would be replaced by another American, David Dawson on viola, and Gottlieb would be replaced by the Russian-born Naoum Benditzky on cello.


  1. Thank you for sharing this very fine recording. May I put in a request for Op. 59, No. 1 at your convenience and if you have it. Too bad everyone else has forgotten about the Coolidge Quartet. Many thanks.

    1. Alas I don't have any other Coolidge Qt. Beethoven, but I do have Schubert #9 (D. 173) and Griffes' Sketches on Indian Themes, and will be posting these eventually...

  2. Bryan - many thanks for this further instalment from the Coolidge Quartet and look forward to hearing the Schubert quartet & Griffes as and when you can post them.
    There are some Coolidge Quartet recordings which can be listened to on the British Library Sound Archive web-site. They certainly have Op.18 No.1 and two others which I cannot recall at this moment.
    I had some Kroll Quartet LPs in my collection at one stage - they were Epic recordings of Hindemith & Tchaikovsky quartets + Death & the Maiden quartet of Schubert issued as English Columbia pressings and were really good.
    As they were collectors items I foolishly sold them off and regretted it ever after as I have never, ever seen any other copies!

    Eddie S
    Suffolk UK

  3. Bryan - have just checked the British Library Sounds web-site for the Coolidge items. They have Beethoven Op.18 No.1; Op.18 No.5 and the Op.59 No.2 which you have just posted.
    Hope this is of interest to your correspondents.

    Eddie S
    Suffolk UK