Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: 'Complete Duets & Quartets'

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: 'Complete Duets & Quartets'

Article excerpt

Brahms

'Complete Duets & Quartets' Duets--Op 20; Op 28; Op 61; Op 66. Quartets--Op 31; Op 64; Op 92; Op 112. Balladen und Romanzen, Op 75. Liebesliederwalzer, Op 52. Neue Liebeslieder, Op 65. Zigeunerlieder, Op 103 Juliane Banse sop Ingeborg Danz, Iris Vermillion mezs Christoph Pregardien, Marcus Ullmann ten Andreas Schmidt bar Helmut Deutsch, Wolfram Riegerpfe CPO (M) (3) CP0777 537-2 (149' * DDD * T/t)

CPO's complete Brahms song series started as long ago as the early '90s, and the sessions for this release--a substantial appendix to that 10-disc project--date from between 1997 and 2003. Anyone who's been sticking with the whole survey will no doubt want to snap it up, and it's also a useful collection for people wanting to explore Brahms's vocal ensembles from the starting point of the oft-recorded sets of Liebesliederwalzer (happily CPO provides full texts and English translations).

As with those works, this is mainly Brahms in relaxed, easy-going vein, pieces primarily written for domestic--or at least amateur--performance. Gentle inspiration is the order of the day, rather than towering manifestations of genius. In fact, the lighter numbers tend to be the most successful: such joyous ditties as 'Die Schwestern' from Op 61 (a little like a 'Three little maids from school' avant la lettre) or the Des Knaben Wunderhorn-AzrivzA 'Guter Rat' (Op 75) are more fun for listeners and, one suspects, performers than such melodramatic ballads as 'Walpurgisnacht' or the earnest 'Edward', also from Op 75.

There are 'gypsy song' arrangements also great fun--as well as full-fat Brahmsian delights, such as 'O schone Nacht' from Op 92 or 'Phanomen' (Op 61); the Op 64 Quartets strike me as a particularly seductive mixture of the Schubertian and the unmistakably Brahmsian.

Andreas Schmidt, Juliane Banse and Helmut Deutsch have been the stalwarts of the series, and they form the core of the personnel in performances that are always engaged and idiomatic. …

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