Brahms – Takács Quartet & Stephen Hough

0 of 5 stars

Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34
String Quartet in A minor, Op.51/2

Takács Quartet [Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola) & András Fejér (cello)]

Stephen Hough (piano)

Recorded 21-24 May 2007 in St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: December 2007
Duration: 73 minutes



For its second release on Hyperion, the Takács Quartet turns to Brahms, and in the company of Stephen Hough secure a superb reading of the Piano Quintet.

In their hands the music is full of drama and passion, performed with great clarity of ensemble and a firm grasp of the work’s structure. From the first unison statement the tension is palpable, not letting up until the final explosive cadence.

Central to the success of this performance is the balance achieved between piano and strings. When the first and third movements unleash their full energy Hough is the driving force, the scherzo proudly striding forward while the first movement releases its already keenly felt tension from the opening bars.The Takács Quartet’s ensemble is wonderfully secure; the only minor criticism a very occasional tendency to surge forward over the tempo, as glimpsed at the end of the scherzo. That in no way detracts from the wonderful music-making, with Brahms’s more lyrical passages fully realised, especially in the first and slow movements. Rhythmically this is an extremely taut performance, the five musicians particularly enjoying the syncopation of the finale.

After such an intense performance the Second String Quartet provides a little respite through Edward Dusinberre’s graceful opening line, the quartet choosing to take a more legato approach to this work. By and large this is a successful viewpoint, especially in the moments where Brahms’s writing tends to be quasi-orchestral; with time and space given to projections of the thematic material, the dense counterpoint can all be heard. Hyperion’s recording helps, too, in applying definition with a slight resonance, able to pick up the balance of the inside parts that the Takács Quartet achieves so well.

The more graceful playing doesn’t however remove the quartet of its drama, and the fugato section of the ‘Quasi menuetto’ fizzes through its dialogue between players. Dusinberre’s purity of tone is notable in the Andante, the movement arriving at a serene end, while the affirmative finale is a delight as the players busy themselves with Brahms’s energetic writing.

This is a wonderful release, providing fresh insight into Brahms’s chamber music for strings. It is to be hoped the Takács will complete a Brahms quartet cycle – maybe including the Clarinet Quintet – as these musicians’ performing-style is ideal for this music.

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