Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: String Sextets-No 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: String Sextets-No 1

Article excerpt

Brahms

String Sextets--No 1, Op 18; No 2, Op 36

Cypress Quartet with Barry Schiffman va Zuill Bailey vc

Avie (F) AV2294 (77' * DDD)

This disc, like the Cypress Quartet's previous releases on Avie, was recorded at Skywalker Sound in California--although these were made 'in front of a live studio audience'. What impact, if any, the presence of an audience had on the quality and character of the performances is impossible to determine. Yet even if there's no applause, coughing or other extraneous noise, there is a significant sonic difference in comparison with, say, the Cypress's Beethoven cycle. Here, we seem to be placed extremely close to the ensemble in a smaller, acoustically drier space. Every musical strand is clear and present but so, too, is every defect in intonation.

Such flaws are easily forgivable; the musically wondrous 1952 account by Casals et al (Sony Classical) is rife with such imperfections. What's troubling about this new recording is that there are few if any moments of sufficiently hushed or even truly soft playing. The overly close perspective doesn't help, but ultimately it's the performers who are responsible as they overlook many of Brahms's instructions--some subtle, some not. …

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