Rudolf Serkin

Brahms: Chamber Works

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These recordings of Brahms' F minor Piano Quintet, A major Violin Sonata, and G minor and A major piano quartets have been kicking around the catalog for more than half a century -- in some cases, much more than half a century -- but the passage of time has only increased their value. Because while there have certainly been other recordings of these works worthy of attention, these recordings featuring violinist Adolf Busch and pianist Rudolf Serkin have remained the gold standard. Why? Listen first to Busch and Serkin's poised but heartfelt A major Violin Sonata recorded in London in 1932: here is playing so deep inside the music and so thoroughly in the tradition that one can only use the word "authentic" to describe the performance. Then try the big-boned but charming A major Piano Quartet, likewise recorded in London in 1932 with violist Karl Doktor and cellist Hermann Busch, or the dramatic but driven F minor Piano Quintet recorded in London in 1938 with Doktor and Busch plus violinist Gösta Andreasson for performances that come as close to definitive as can be imagined. Finally, try the melancholy but rambunctious G minor Piano Quartet, recorded in London in 1949 with Busch and violist Hugo Gottesman for a performance so easy and natural that the music seems to be almost improvised on the spot. Though EMI's sound is antique and Urania's remastering is cursory, these performances demand to be heard by anyone who loves great Brahms playing.

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