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Hyperion Records

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Mountain Lake by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas / Gift of the Family of Joseph S Cullinan / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67552
Recording details: May 2008
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 31 minutes 2 seconds

'Their approach is alert, texturally clear and passionate … these are admirable performances which I recommend to any prospective buyer … this new Takács reading weighs in at the top end of the many available versions' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The Takács chart the music's undulating emotions with a compelling assuredness … playing of radiant warmth and phrasal sensitivity. Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon work wonders in capturing a warm yet articulate ambience for these physically imposing and richly detailed scores. Strongly recommended' (International Record Review)

'Just the team to make these scores work better than you might have thought possible. The austere Quartet in A minor benefits from the Takacs' warm tone and courtly romanticism. The late B flat quartet can feel lightweight, even inconsequential, in other hands. Not in this reading, at once expansive and refined … they're best in show' (The Dallas Morning News)

'The Takács Quartet extracts every ounce out of a score that pulsates with energy and convey its progression with unerring fluency. Opus 67 carries an ineffable charm. A thoroughly rewarding album' (The Northern Echo)

'This exceptional recording … the earlier work, profound and deliberate, is the ideal companion to the later, more graceful piece' (The Age, Melbourne)

String Quartet in C minor, Op 51 No 1
composer
preliminary version completed by December 1865; finalized and published by Simrock in 1873; dedicated to THeodor Billroth

Allegro  [10'51]
Allegro  [5'41]

Other recordings available for download
New Budapest Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
None of Brahms’s large-scale works is more organically unified than the C minor Quartet Op 51 No 1. Not only does each idea grow with unerring logic out of the last, in a process of continual development, but the main subject of each movement clearly arises out of the same germ. The dramatic motif hurled forth by all four players at the start of the finale appears to set out in the key—F minor—of the preceding movement, while the rise and fall of its melodic shape echoes the opening movement’s main theme. Moreover, the stepwise progression of the finale’s initial notes recalls the gentle horn-call with which the three lower instruments preface the first violin’s theme at the start of the slow movement.

For all their musical richness, it is possible to feel that the orchestrally inclined outer movements are less successful in terms of quartet writing than the two middle movements, both of which are perfect and intimate miniatures. From a harmonic point of view, however, the first movement shows Brahms’s style at its boldest. The tense opening theme, with its pulsating accompaniment on viola and cello, is followed immediately by a more lyrical idea that modulates remarkably widely for so early in the piece. (This was a passage much admired by Schoenberg, who cited it in an essay entitled ‘Brahms the Progressive’.) No less striking is the manner in which Brahms treats the start of the recapitulation, much later in the movement, allowing the main theme to enter before the home key has been re-established. The seamless join is one that effectively prolongs the tension of the preceding development section.

The horn-call that inaugurates the slow movement is woven into the accompaniment of the warmly expressive main theme itself. The theme is handed over from violin to cello for a counterstatement, as though it were to form the basis of a set of variations; but there is no such quasi-repeat for the melody’s second half, which instead gives way to the halting phrases of a more pleading middle section. When the original melody returns it does so in an elaborately ornamented form, as if to confirm the variation background of the movement’s beginning.

If the ‘panting’ phrases that set the F minor third movement in motion offer a distant memory of the finale from Beethoven’s quartet in the same key Op 95, its second theme—a mellifluous, ‘swaying’ duet for viola and first violin—is as thoroughly Brahmsian as could be imagined. The trio section in the major has its theme accompanied by a curious ‘croaking’ sound from the second violin. The effect is produced by rapidly alternating the same pitch between adjacent ‘open’ and ‘stopped’ strings—an idea Brahms will have learned not from Beethoven, but from Haydn, whose quartets he deeply admired. Haydn’s most famous example of this bariolage technique, as it is called, occurs in the finale of his D major Quartet Op 50 No 6, where its use has lent the work as a whole the nickname of the ‘Frog’.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2008


Other albums featuring this work
'Brahms: String Quartets Op 51' (CDA66651)
Brahms: String Quartets Op 51
MP3 £4.00FLAC £4.00ALAC £4.00Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66651  Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42   Download currently discounted
'Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music' (CDS44331/42)
Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £40.00 CDS44331/42  12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Brahms: String Quartets & Piano Quintet' (CDD22018)
Brahms: String Quartets & Piano Quintet
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99 CDD22018  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Deleted  

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