Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: String Quartet No 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: String Quartet No 1

Article excerpt

Brahms

String Quartet No 1, Op 51 No 1. Piano Quintet, Op 34 (a) (a) Natacha Kudritskaya pf Brodsky Quartet Chandos (F) CHAN10892 (77' * DDD)

This pairing of the C minor Quartet and Piano Quintet comes a couple of years after the Brodsky's first disc of Brahms for Chandos, an altogether more mellow coupling of the Second Quartet and the Clarinet Quintet. And immediately one gets the feeling that some of that mellowness remains: these are performances that are not afraid to relax, which don't insist on maintaining a constant tension to keep the pieces taut and together.

There's an almost tentative quality to the opening of the quartet (certainly compared to the big-boned statements of, say, the Artemis Quartet on their recent disc) and arguably some will miss the assertiveness of the German quartet, or even of the Ebene on their identical coupling; the Brodskys, following first violin Daniel Rowland's lead, often favour a nervous swell-and-contract expressiveness instead of those ensembles' broader, more confident lyrical flow.

As such, although there are plenty of lovely details in the outer movements, where the playing is never less than intelligent and instinctive, I miss a sense of powerful forward thrust, a feeling emphasised by the occasional tendency to drop down a notch in tempo. The Romanze, however, receives an exquisite performance (listen to the way Rowland soars up his phrase at 2'26" for a taster of the bittersweet lyricism he and his colleagues achieve); and though others offer a greater sense of tension in the Allegretto, the Brodsky's more muted approach is effective there, too. …

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