The music world associates Humperdinck first and foremost with his fairy-tale operas. Chamber music accounts for only a relatively small portion of his oeuvre, but should not be underestimated in its importance. This release presents the String Quartets and première recording of the Piano Quintet. In the Piano Quintet especially, the catchy themes and its wonderfully melodious middle movement, represent a valuable contribution to late-romantic literature off the beaten track.
All three of Brahms’ string quartets appear in this 2-CD set, along with his piano quintet, recorded live at the Vienna Konzerthaus, where Elisabeth Leonskaja joined the members of the Alban Berg Quartett. The ensemble’s name honours the continuity and vigour of Vienna’s long musical tradition, which reached one of its Romantic highpoints with these chamber masterworks, composed in the 1860s and 1870s.
”… an outstanding project of landmark proportions…MDG has produced an excellent warm, intimate, life-sized recording. The composer provides his customarily thorough and enlightening notes … Highly recommended.” (Fanfare)
It would be difficult to imagine a finer account of this extraordinary work than that of the Melos Quartet and their distinguished guest. The flow of the music is magnificently sustained, its colour and inner life marvellously felt. There is a spontaneity to the playing that perfectly complements the profound whimsicality of Schubert's journeys to remote tonal regions, along with a sensitivity ideally suited to the meditative quality of the composer's lyricism. The recording is warm and spacious, richly nuanced, and admirably balanced.
"A triumphant start to what heralds to be one of the best Shostakovich quartet cycles imaginable. (…) Highly recommended." 5/5 ~sa-cd.net
There is little doubt that Vienna at the turn of the 19th century was the musical capital of the world; a nexus for the string quartet composer, who could alternate composing for the leading virtuosos of the day with creating works that satisfied the then-increasing predilection for domestic music-making. Against this background, striving to find his own voice and using the medium as a path towards his early symphonies, was the young, prodigiously talented Franz Schubert. Similar to Beethoven, Schubert stood out in his refusal to target the general public with his writing, though there is much evidence to suggest that the majority of his early string quartets were written for and first performed by his family’s own ensemble.