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.