The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Vertavo Quartet
Composer: Beethoven

The all-female Vertavo Quartet from Norway has gained a reputation among the most versatile of ensembles. Its members celebrate their 25th year together with, surprisingly, their very first Beethoven recording.

The impact of their playing is very positive: expressive, spontaneous and imaginative; they demonstrate a fine ear for texture and a well-blended sense of ensemble, and they surmount the music’s technical and interpretative challenges with ease and authority. The pensive opening Adagio of op.130 is given the significance it merits as the seed of much of the movement’s subsequent material, not least of the ensuing Allegro’s veiled principal theme. Leader Berit Cardas almost meets her technical match in the bravura middle section of the Presto, but her characterisation of the Alla danza tedesca and her sustained lyricism in the intense, tragic Cavatina are compelling. By contrast, she and her colleagues perform Beethoven’s alternative finale with all the requisite lightheartedness and humour.

The nerve and sinew these players give to the Grosse Fuge are profoundly Beethovenian. Their powerful, rhythmic account is well paced and draws the dramatic elements together firmly; it belongs among the best, without sweeping the board. The warm recorded sound does full justice throughout to their refined and perceptive musicianship.