Brahms’ standing among the world’s greatest classical composers is confirmed by his
inclusion, together with Bach and Beethoven, in the ‘Three Bs’ triumvirate. A leading
figure of the Romantic period who excelled in almost every form, he was particularly
renowned for his contributions to chamber music; this release details four such examples,
all expertly performed by the Juilliard Quartet.
As with the symphony, Brahms was very conscious of the tradition that lay behind the
genre of the string quartet, and it is said that he spent the better part of a decade working
on Op.51. While No.1 is known for its gritty intensity – brilliantly captured in this recording –
No.2, which looks back to Beethoven’s Op.18 through its first movement’s impeccable
sonata-allegro form, was written along altogether more lyrical lines. The work presents
an engaging follow-up to the experimental Third Quartet in Bb major and is wonderfully
complemented by the ensuing Clarinet Quintet Op.115. Here a spirit of mellow reflection
comes to the fore, providing a perfect ending to a delightful collection.
The Juilliard String Quartet is one of the longest establishd chamber ensembles, renowned
for the interpretative clarity of a range of repertoire from Beethoven to Elliott Carter, and
their account of these works – some of Brahms’ most famous – has been described as ‘the
stuff of charismatic greatness’. Featuring exemplary playing from clarinettist Neidich, this
compilation brims with colour and expression.
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