Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34; String Quintet in G major, Op. 111

Pavel Haas Quartet / Pavel Nikl / Boris Giltburg

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Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34; String Quintet in G major, Op. 111 Review

by James Manheim

The Pavel Haas Quartet has recorded and performed a good deal of music by Dvořák and other Czech composers, as well as those from elsewhere in Eastern Europe, developing a passionate, lush sound that can truly catch fire at times. To transfer that spirit to the soberer Brahms, whose precisely notated structures are less amenable to variation than are the works of other composers, is a difficult balancing act. However, it is accomplished admirably here by the Pavel Haas Quartet, aided in the Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, by pianist Boris Giltburg and in the String Quintet in G major, Op. 111, by violist Pavel Nikl, one of the group's founding members. The group gets big sonorities, propelled but not overwhelmed by the piano in Op. 34 and by the cello that opens the Op. 111 quintet. The latter work is a bit atypical of late Brahms, forgoing motivic intricacy in favor of a joyous progression that resolves itself in the end with a finale dominated by the Hungarian czardas rhythm. The group really shines in the turbulent F minor piano quintet, as dark and intense as anything else Brahms ever wrote, and a work that went through several versions before the composer was satisfied with it. One feature of this ensemble is the variety of timbres offered by the individual players, with the rich tone of violist Luosha Fang an ideal foil for the edgier violinists. The players are aided by superb, almost tactile sound from Prague's Domovina Studio. In every way, a superior Brahms chamber release.

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