The unfolding of autumn puts me in the mood to listen to some of the later chamber works of Brahms. In a recent review I wrote on the Dvorak Piano Quintets, I remarked that when it came to chamber music, of all composers, Dvorak gave me the most pure joy and spiritual satisfaction. However, my experience with Brahms in this genre has been the most satisfying in terms of aesthetic richness, although there have been times when I have felt a little less than fulfilled while listening to some portions of some of his later compositions. I almost sense, at times, a creatively weary Brahms, though I suppose some would say, "no, just a mellower Brahms." However, at this time, I find Brahms' opus 88 String Quintet to be rather more gratifying than his later opus 111, especially in terms of melodic inventiveness. I can't quite relate to the first, second and third movements of the Second Quintet with the same degree of appreciation I have for the fourth movement, and the entire earlier quintet. In any event, the Raphael Ensemble certainly does an excellent job of conveying both a sense of perceptiveness and elan in its presentation of these works. In the First Quintet, it's quality of youthful freshness is particularly apparent. It comes into play especially during the first movement, with its noble sounding opening theme, and its wonderful, swaying second subject that exhibits a charming Viennese character. The development section that follows evinces a feeling of warmth and a lovely intertwining of melodies. In the third and final movement, the group's presentation is absolutely exhilarating. Not to shortchange the second movement, you will find there a very nicely shaped contrast in moods between delightfulness and seriousness. The Second Quintet is executed also in a very fine manner, despite my aforementioned reservations. There is true poignancy of emotional expression throughout the work. The last movement has a marvelous, seemingly valedictory quality.
While there is another superb coupling of these quintets, offered by the Julliard Quartet with Walter Trampler on Sony Essential Classics, my preference is for the Raphael's renditions. Some may appreciate the former for its somewhat more gemutlich (mellower) presentation. Additionally, the latter is recorded more vividly on the Hyperion label. I really doubt that one could go wrong with either set.
- Audio CD (Feb. 9 2005)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Hyperion UK
- ASIN: B000002ZWC
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
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- #19692 in Chamber Music