Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34
Piano Quintet in E flat, Op.44
Artemis Quartet [Natalia Prischepenko & Heime Müller (violins), Volker Jacobsen (viola) & Eckart Runge (cello)]
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Recorded 18-22 December 2006 in Teldex Studio, Berlin
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2007
CD No: VIRGIN CLASSICS
3 95143 2
Duration: 69 minutes
Two masterpieces handsomely coupled. Schumann’s work makes the ideal opener, it’s lively beginning attesting to the energy, poise, spontaneity and interaction of the Artemis Quartet and Leif Ove Andsnes, and also to the excellent balance (the piano integrated), space and focus of the recorded sound.
These are discerning performances, with plenty of light and shade, dynamism and composure. What especially impresses is that the bigger picture is always in view but not at the expense of sentiment or asides; thus Schumann’s second movement is both march-like and beautifully expressive, followed by a scherzo that allows shape into the filigree dexterity. The finale is resolute but not overpowering, the fugal final measures a coming-together both silver-lined and inevitable.
For Brahms’s larger-scale work, the Artemis Quartet explores a more rough-hewn soundworld, but one that doesn’t eschew beauty or deep expression. The heroism of the music is explored but not indulged; the tempo for the first movement is a little quicker than the norm and episodes are ideally dovetailed, Leif Ove Andsnes a quicksilver and gently-founded pianist and one who can command at all the right moments. The fire-in-the-belly first-movement coda is astutely judged to what has gone before and the flowing tempo for the second movement makes melody rather than punctuation.
Indeed, convincing tempos are one of the successes of these accounts; too often Brahms’s music can seem heavy and thick – not here: the scherzo has real impetus and clarity, and while the trio is anything but paraded, its glorious contours really sing nonetheless. This may account for the shadowy opening to the finale seeming ‘stranger’ than usual. The marking for the main body of the movement, Allegro non troppo, is notably heeded by these musicians (and many intimacies exposed); thus there is much left for the Presto non troppo coda, which sweeps all before it. A triumph!
For either work these recordings are amongst the most distinguished of library choices; that they are coupled makes for an outstanding release.