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Hyperion Records

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Postcard depicting Brahms composing his Symphony No 1 (c1900). Austrian School, 20th century
Private Collection / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDS44331/42
Recording details: April 1988
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: November 1988
Total duration: 39 minutes 50 seconds

'The pick of this crop has to be Brahms's Complete Chamber Music from Hyperion. Spanning more than two decades, this box contains the finest, mainly British, performances, some very recent … Brahms's two dozen chamber works are among his greatest achievements, and yield little or nothing in quality to the better known output of Mozart and Beethoven. This box contains much buried treasure' (The Mail on Sunday)

'Immerse yourself in this set of 12 CDs of Brahms's chamber music … in the last 25 years, Hyperion has managed to persuade some of the finest of chamber musicians to reveal their affection for Brahms in recordings of remarkably consistent quality … altogether life affirming music in life enhancing performances: surely one of the best buys of the year?' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This magnificent 12-CD collection … Marc-André Hamelin and the Leopold String Trio find the right gypsy touch in the First Piano Quartet … the Florestan Trio is movingly intense in the piano trios … Lawrence Power's playing of the viola alternative to the clarinet sonatas is magical. And there's much more! A superb bargain' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Stellar artists, fine sound, splendid presentation. Superb!' (ClassicalSource.com)

String Sextet No 2 in G major, Op 36
composer
mainly autumn 1864, with finale added spring 1865

Allegro non troppo  [14'39]
Poco adagio  [9'28]
Poco allegro  [8'32]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Of the Second Sextet Sir Donald Tovey wrote that it was ‘the most ethereal of Brahms’s larger works’. Beginning with a theme built on rising fifths, the first movement, in sonata form, illustrates Brahms’s mastery of the art of counterpoint. The development section is an effortless demonstration of this art, and one can but listen and admire both the technical ingenuity and the poetic inspiration which bring this lovely music to life. The music itself contains a motif based on the name Agathe—that is, of course, without the ‘unmusical’ letter T. The letter H in German refers to the note B in English, thus the succession of notes AGAHE enshrines the first name of Agathe von Siebold, the one and only young lady to whom Brahms was ever betrothed, though destined never to marry. Following the appearance of Agathe, the movement ends with a coda memorable for a reprise of the first subject containing a most beautiful modulatory passage.

The succeeding G minor Scherzo wavers between melancholy and gentle playfulness with a well-contrasted middle section, ‘Presto giocoso’, incorporating a thumping Ländler rhythm. The Adagio is in E minor and once more finds Brahms using his beloved variation technique to great effect. A slow, sad melody, supported by distinctive chromatic harmonies, is followed by a succession of varied renditions of the thematic material whose melodic connections are less obvious than are the rhythmic and cadential ones.

The last movement sustains Brahms’s sunny mood and the music has an unhurried gait, despite the fugal writing in the development section. The main theme is first marked ‘Tranquillo’ and, later, ‘Semplice’, and it moves effortlessly in triple time. The return of the fugue ensures a rousing conclusion to one of Brahms’s most happy inspirations.

from notes by Peter Lamb © 2000

Other albums featuring this work
'Brahms: String Sextets' (CDA66276)
Brahms: String Sextets
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