Brahms festooned his scores with an abundance of interpretive markings, and performances of his music arguably vary less than those of music of many other composers. Yet sometimes a performance really clicks, and when it does, that's often the result of one or both of a pair of factors. First, a flawless ensemble goes a long way with Brahms, and second, attention to detail, in the music of a composer whose structures are as intricate as Brahms', is paramount. The WDR Chamber Players, following on their successful release of Brahms string quintets, fulfills both these criteria and produces an unusually satisfying recording of these fairly early Brahms pieces. Examples are nearly everywhere you might look but consider the little violin flourishes that begin just shy of the five-minute mark in the String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major. A lesser ensemble might skate over them, but they are critical to the web of motives as it is developing. The sense of long line is exceptional here: in the first movement of the String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36, the ensemble strikes a perfect balance between the mysteriously chromatic first subject and the resolutely diatonic second, and the list goes on, enhanced by sound from a WDR (Westdeutsche Rundfunk, or West German Radio) studio that is intimate and intense without going over the edge. A truly absorbing Brahms release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18|
|String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36|