This disc was highly praised when it was released and still remains one of several gems of Hyperion's impressive catalogue (it was also the Raphael Ensemble's first recording). The characterfulness yet warmth of the playing strikes the listener from the very opening bars of the first sextet, conveying a depth and making an impact that few if any other recordings can match. This is carefully shaped, warm and alluring playing, yet with profundity, commitment and indeed even boldness, excellently phrased and with a feeling of freshness these works need (they are, to be honest, not among Brahms's very best chamber works). Perhaps surprisingly, the highlight of the performance of the first sextet is the finale (but perhaps in particular because of the wonderful, contrastive continuity they manage to bring between this movement and the preceding scherzo).
The second sextet is maybe even more impressive than the first. It is quite remarkable, in fact, how unforced the music sounds, how natural and freshly it flows through the first movement, slowly gathering momentum to a radiant close. But the Raphaels are no less impressive in the other movements, and again the finale is particularly impressive, imparting the feeling that it couldn't have sounded differently; delightful. The recorded sound is bright and spacious, but perhaps just a little bit artificial-sounding. Still, this is a thoroughly recommended release.