[skip ahead to 36:55 for the fifth movement.]
I had a mad Rumanian piano teacher who believed that musicianship died somewhere between Artur Schnabel’s 1930’s recordings of the Beethoven Sonatas and the detestable clockwork of the Second World War. Indeed, he proved his dedication to the pleasures of old world aestheticism when he was drafted into the military, by pulling the pin on a hand grenade and forgetting to throw the crude mechanical device — and thus did he come to be released from Ceaușescu’s army in the days before such things were even possible. I am of coarser stuff and take the world less delicately — but what tender delicacies some of these old recordings offer! The precision may be lacking in places, but they that want a Prussian style can look elsewhere for their vitis and fustuarium. I hear something fragile and almost neurasthenic in the nearly-off-the-rails rubato in this Budapest Quartet recording of the fifth movement of Beethoven’s Opus 132 — something breathing, wounded, and alive.