Takács String Quartet / Marc-André Hamelin

Dohnányi: Piano Quintets; String Quartet No. 2

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The music of composer Ernst von Dohnányi was neglected during a century that prioritized the more progressive music of Bartók but has lately made some forward strides. Dohnányi was certainly a follower of Brahms, but the key in performance is to catch the ways in which he expanded upon Brahms' Classical forms. That's what occurs here in this group of chamber works performed by the Takács Quartet, which overall has a restless, urgent quality. The credit is partly due to pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who, paradoxical though it may seem given his record in virtuoso piano music, is a superb chamber player. Hamelin catches the difference between the Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1, which is a student essay in Brahms' style (albeit an extremely competent one that Brahms said he could not improve), and the Piano Quintet No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26, which goes beyond Brahms into a characteristic early 20th century landscape. Hamelin brings murky unease to the music in the first movement, and he gets the chance to stretch out his pianistic chops: Dohnányi was a virtuoso considered a successor to Liszt, and his integration of pianism into a chamber texture is one of several really attractive features of this work. The String Quartet No. 2 in D flat major, Op. 15, also follows Brahmsian patterns but diverges from them in its cyclical structure. Although he did not follow Austrian composers into deep, proto-atonal chromaticism, Dohnányi was more modern than he was given credit for, and it's understood by these performers. They are also recorded ideally at the Wyastone Estate Concert Hall, with the result being a very strong album of post-Romantic chamber music.

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