After hearing the Auryn Quartet at Bates College’s Olin Hall on Sunday, my only regret is that I did not attend all of the concerts in their Beethoven cycle there. The quartet is quite simply the best I have ever encountered, anywhere.

If they maintained Sunday’s level of passionate intensity in all of the Beethoven quartets, then their accomplishment is miraculous. Come to think of it, their first violinist does look a little like Paganini.

For their final concert of the season, the Auryn chose three works from Beethoven’s early, middle and late periods. In order of appearance, they were Opus 18 in C-minor, Opus 135 in F-Major and Opus 59 in E-minor.

From the first notes of the Opus 18, it was apparent that this was a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce at 120 mph.

For the rest of the concert, when I wasn’t just listening – enchanted – I scribbled notes about why this group – three Germans and one American – is so special. It was as if they had somehow entered Beethoven’s mind, determined exactly what he wanted, then proceeded to realize it perfectly.

Every quartet was filled with drama, not the extraneous kind that characterizes Liszt and others, but a musical kaleidoscope of moods and motifs that kept the audience wondering what this magician was going to pull out of his hat next.

The Auryn has an extensive palette of tonal color and dynamics to apply to their interpretations, yet every voice is highly individualistic, never lost in the ensemble, with absolutely precise and powerful entrances. This makes Beethoven’s fugues and canons both remarkably satisfying and understandable.

I have always considered most of the breathless, religious commentary on the late quartets a bit overblown, but Sunday’s reading of the Opus 135 made me a believer.

It was a journey into the abyss and back. The insane, almost unbearable, repetition in the second movement made the sadly lyrical assai lento that follows one of the most moving transitions in music. There, the composer’s voice almost disappears.

Maybe it is true that only Germans can play Beethoven. At any rate, the famous “Muss es sein? Es muss sein” was somehow given an inflection that stated quite clearly which was the question and which the answer.

The consolatory, resigned, final movement was just that, not an afterthought. It also contained a quite incredible pizzicato passage, played pianissimo.

The final work on the program, the Opus 59, was uplifting in a more cheerful way. The Auryn applied enough tonal color to generate synesthesia, sounding at times like a full orchestra. There were elephants dancing in the minuet, and the galloping troika of the finale ended on an ecstatic crescendo/accelerando.

The audience contained about the number of connoisseurs who once sat in Prince Razumovsky’s salon. They were equally privileged.

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at: [email protected]