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.
The young Austrian Minetti Quartett follow up their first two hänssler CLASSIC releases of works by Haydn and Mendelssohn with works from the pen of the Grand Master of the String Quartet: Ludwig van Beethoven. Two early works from Opus 18, the 4th in the tragic key of C minor and the 2nd in a serene G major, frame the stormy “Quartetto serioso” op 95 in F minor. The unprejudiced naturalness and the multifaceted articulation of these four musicians is presented to fullest advantage in these expressive works, once again showcasing the outstanding musicianship of this young quartet.
This warmly recorded, naturally balanced disc is delightful. The Minetti Quartet offers three late Haydn masterpieces, played with plenty of high spirits and, in the slow movements, a fresh songfulness (both Opp. 64's and 76's are marked "cantabile") that's most affecting. There's practically nothing to criticize here. Highlights include the really zippy final prestos of Opp. 64 and 76, and the intense Largo assai of the "Rider" quartet. In the finale of the latter, the group's articulation is a touch clipped in the main theme, and as a result the music doesn't quite speak as it should, but better too much energy than too little. The minuet (really a scherzo) of Op. 76 also is terrific, smooth as silk until Haydn's disruptive syncopation sets in. If you're looking for a very attractive single-disc collection of late Haydn quartets, I can recommend this without hesitation. Playing time is a bit short–under an hour–so there was still room for another full quartet, but if this doesn't concern you terribly, then go for it.