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Brahms: String Quartets, Op. 51 Nos. 1 & 2 / New Orford String Quartet

Album Summary

>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 1 in C minor, Op. 51/1
>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51/2
Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

In 2011 the New Orford String Quartet released its debut album of the final quartets of Schubert and Beethoven on Bridge Records to international acclaim. Hailed as one of the top CDs of 2011 by La Presse and CBC In Concert and nominated for a JUNO Award in 2012, critics have described the recording as a "performance of true greatness and compelling intensity" (Audio Video Club of Atlanta); "flawless...a match made in heaven!" (Classical Music Sentinel) and "nothing short of electrifying...listen and weep." (The Toronto Star). The New Orford's recording of Brahms's great op. 51 quartets is no less ravishing than their Schubert/Beethoven, and charts the steady development of the ensemble into one of the leading quartets of our era. This is playing of remarkable depth and insight, casting new light on two of Brahms's greatest masterpieces.

American Record Guide, March/April 2016
The original Orford Quartet, one of Canada's best-known ensembles, was founded in 1965 and disbanded in 1991, after giving more than 2000 concerts on six continents. This group had its beginnings in 2009, made its debut album in 2011 (Beethoven & Schubert, N/D 2011), and continues here with Brahms. I mean it as high praise when I say that from the first minute of the first quartet I was pretty sure I knew how the rest of this would sound. Brahms's first quartet is usually treated as a massive monument, a piece to be wrestled to the ground like Beethoven's Fifth or a Ein Heldenleben. And the music is beautiful. Right at the beginning (m. 15) first violinist Jonathan Crow plays very softly to allow lower parts to emerge, and his filigree work (m. 67ff.) lingers on key notes and brings a subtlety, a deftness that characterizes this music and gives it meaning. This careful attention to balance. They are a wonderfully musical group, and I hope they bring us many more recordings. This is Brahms with tenderness and romantic yearning.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: The Multi-Media Room (MMR), Schulich School of Music, M (05/2013).


Worth revisiting
I found this to be a deceptively simple recording. Last time I checked, there were 58 recordings of Brahms' Op. 51 quartets in print, so competition is stiff.

The first few times I listened to the New Orford recording, I thought it sat somewhere in the middle of the pack -- well-played, but not especially noteworthy.

But then I started listening more closely, and more critically. I realized that what the New Orford brings to these works are transparent performances. Their interpretation seemed more concerned with serving the music, rather than making a mark on it.

The New Orford has a near-perfect ensemble blend that to my ears made it seem as if I was listening to a single instrument, rather than four. If you want to introduce someone to these works, this recording is a great place to start. The New Orford Quartet delivers solid performances of these works -- performances that I appreciate more with every hearing.
Submitted on 08/10/16 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 1 in C minor, Op. 51/1
  • Ensemble: New Orford String Quartet
  • Running Time: 33 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1866-1873

>Brahms, Johannes : Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51/2
  • Running Time: 34 min. 47 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1865