Johannes Brahms' two string quintets are late works, composed respectively in 1882 and 1890. Like other pieces from the last decade of Brahms life, they hold deep secrets that reveal themselves only slowly, over repeated hearings. They may in fact be tougher nuts to crack than the structurally similar clarinet pieces from the same period, for the dense, undifferentiated string quintet texture demands especially close attention. Yet the thematic material is not in itself of a different genus from that in the composer's earlier works; some of the themes in the middle movement of the String Quintet No. 1 in F major, Op. 88, in fact, were written as early as 1854. It's just that the unique multipart structure in which they are embedded here is deeply problematical. The performance by the Hungarian-American Takács Quartet, whose Brahms performances have been uniquely well thought out and executed, strike a balance between the Viennese lyricism of the thematic material and its mind-boggling development. With the participation of violist Lawrence Power, these are performances of great clarity and at the same time great warmth, all rendered in sterling detail by Hyperion's team of engineers at Britain's Wyastone Estate. An exceptional Brahms recording.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quintet No. 1 in F major, Op. 88|
|String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111|