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Brahms: String Quartet, etc / Hough, Takács Quartet

Album Summary

>Brahms, Johannes : Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34
>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51/2
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Johannes Brahms had to struggle with the string quartet medium, but he eventually found an intensely personal language for it, with an unmistakable originality of melody and texture. His celebrated 'Quartet in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2' had a long gestation - the composer held it back for years, despite frequent requests for it, until he reached his requisite standard of perfection. Takacs Quartet's first CD for Hyperion was heralded as a uniquely successful collaboration. Acclaimed for his concerto and solo playing, Stephen Hough is now also proved to be a great chamber musician.

'This is the finest recording of Brahms's Piano Quintet since the electrifying Eschenbach/Amadeus version ... Stephen Hough and the Takács Quartet push the music about as far as it can go ... One senses from the start that [Hough] is really fired up and the Takács follow him every inch of the way with playing of beguiling tonal sophistication and thrilling intensity ... This is an exceptional account of a truly exceptional masterwork ... The Takács gently caress and cosset this extraordinary music with a glowing sensitivity and insight ... Highly recommended, especially to those who normally find Brahms a composer they admire rather than fall in love with' (International Record Review)

'These new versions from Stephen Hough and the Takács Quartet strike me as even better, and in more modern sound ... In both Quintet and Quartet the performers give bright, focused, alert, almost 'classical' readings, very different from the ponderous brown studies that marked Brahms performances of yesteryear ... This is an altogether recommendable release' (BBC Music Magazine)

'[String Quartet no 2 Op 51] The Takács Quartet ... reveal anew the extraordinarily imaginative way in which the work begins, and breath air into the intricate textures which precede the vacillating second theme. There's an absolute unanimity to their playing ... [Piano Quintet] This latest reading has fire and passion aplenty, and the recording places Hough pleasingly within the overall texture ... There's a feelin of coming together of ideas, with these artists - masters of colour all of them - sparking off one another in a very unstudio-ish way. And throughout, Hough's virtuosity makes light of Brahms's unforgiving textures' (Gramophone)

'Stephen Hough and the Takács know what they are doing, and they do the glorious work proud. The beautiful A minor quartet also gave me pleasure' (Sunday Times)

'The Takács Quartet bring a huge sense of enjoyment to both the Piano Quintet and the String Quartet Op 51 No 2, and it's clear that this chamber music is being revelled in by its players as much as its listeners. Stephen Hough's playing - shiny-toned, conversational, intelligent, well-balanced - is a special delight' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The first and last movements are serious essays in solid musical thought, with ideas clothed in solid harmonic dress. The inner ones are hardly less weighty, but serenely beautiful and energetically vigorous, respectively. The Takacs Quartet and Stephen Hough are ideal interpreters, and the quartet's approach to the mellower - but equally rewarding - A minor work is likewise impressive' (Manchester Evening News)

'Stephen Hough's Brahmsian credentials were established relatively early in his recording career, with a scintillatingly brilliant, grandly heroic and refreshingly individual account of the B flat Concerto. A recording of the F minor Quintet with him and the Takács Quartet was predestined to be a 'must have'. And so it is. The integration of piano and strings, like the integration of the strings amongst themselves, is exemplary, textures are clear and monumental in equal measure. the rhythmic thrust, on the whole, is weighty but never stodgy, and the music never for a moment flags ... The scherzo, with its combination of immensity, intimacy and vital physicality, gives us, as does the finale, the very essence of Brahms playing at its best' (Piano Magazine)

'These elegant Brahms performances manage to elucidate the darker, more turbulent emotions of the composer while maintaining a sense of intimacy' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'"Definitive" is a dangerous word to use about any performance, especially when the work in question is the rich and repeatedly recorded Piano Quintet Op. 34 by Brahms. But this eloquent, expansive and altogether thrilling account by the Takács Quartet and pianist Stephen Hough tempts a listener to invoke every superlative in the book. Both in its broad design and in its attentively wrought details, this is music making of a very high order. Phrasing is by turns lyrically wistful, swaggering and teasingly restrained. The Andante dies away mysteriously. The Scherzo strides off with almost frightening intensity. The final movement unfolds as a seamless, gripping narrative. A choice performance of the String Quartet Op. 51, No. 2, made sly, tender and muscular by the Takács, is a worthy companion piece' (San Francisco Gate News)

'This is music-making on a high plane' (Fanfare, USA)

'I'm not a fan of thick-stringed, turgid Brahms; I like to hear the inner details. That's something these players offer: everything is audible, and balances are good. The Takacs create lean transparent textures with a quick, light touch; and Hough (as usual)is light on the pedal, with translucent details. I is fleet, II has excellent flow and transparency, III conveys a youthful rather than 'old before his time' Brahms, with an almost magical continuity into the trio; and in IV, after a moody introduction, the allegro is especially effective, with waltzing hemiolas and a finale that would put Queen Mab en pointe' (American Record Guide)


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Works Details

>Brahms, Johannes : Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Notes: St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (05/21/2007-05/24/2007)
  • Running Time: 40 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1861

>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51/2
  • Notes: St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (05/21/2007-05/24/2007)
  • Running Time: 32 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1865