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Johannes Brahms (1833-97)

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Brahms & Joachim: Hungarian Dances

Brahms & Joachim: Hungarian Dances


Brahms:

Hungarian Dances, WoO 1 Nos. 1-21 (complete)

arranged by Joseph Joachim

Joachim:

Variations in E minor


Hagai Shaham (violin) & Arnon Erez (piano)

The forty-year friendship between Brahms and Joseph Joachim, violinist and composer, was one of the most significant and fruitful relationships in nineteenth-century music. Their admiration of each other’s artistry was profound and unwavering, and bore sustained creative fruit on Brahms’s side of which his Violin Concerto and Double Concerto are only the most famous examples.

Joachim’s transcriptions of Brahms’s famous Hungarian Dances – originally written for piano duet or solo piano – are technically challenging for any violinist, and superbly idiomatic, constituting a kind of gypsy ‘Art of the Violin’. They represent the summit of Brahms’s ‘Hungarian’ art, and Joachim’s powers of transcription match them with violin writing of the greatest fastidiousness and authentic feeling. The brilliant Hagai Shaham, acclaimed for his recordings of Hubay, is the ideal performer.

“Joseph Joachim's violin arrangements of Brahms's Hungarian Dances more often than not appear singly as concert encores, so it is good to have the whole set presented here, and especially in virtuoso performances from the Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham that get to the heart of the style. If in musical terms Joachim's own set of variations pales by comparison, this is hardly the fault of Shaham, nor of his expert duo partner Arnon Erez: the playing fizzes with energy and suavity.” The Telegraph, 24th May 2008

“Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez complement each other perfectly here, evincing fire, fury, and sweet sadness.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 *****

“This is a magnificent… Shaham and Erez… playing together with such ease that it's easy to forget the art and care that have gone into achieving such beautiful ensemble.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

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Brahms & Rheinberger - Masses & Motets

Brahms & Rheinberger - Masses & Motets


Brahms:

Missa canonica, WoO18

Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, Op. 29 No. 1

Schaffe in mir, Gott, Op. 29 No. 2

Geistliches Lied, Op. 30

Ave Maria, Op. 12

O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf, Op. 74 No. 2

Warum ist das Licht gegeben? Op. 74 No. 1

Rheinberger:

Mass in E flat major, Op. 109 ‘Cantus Missae'


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Brahms - Cello Sonatas

Brahms - Cello Sonatas


Brahms:

Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38

Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99

Dvorak:

Waldesruhe (Silent woods) for cello and orchestra, Op. 68 No. 5

Rondo in G minor for cello & piano, Op. 94, B. 171

Suk:

Ballad in D minor for cello & piano, Op. 3 No. 1

Serenade for Cello and Piano in A major, Op. 3, No. 2


“Isserlis here achieves a beauty, finesse and attack with the cello less evident from his playing 20 years ago: his technique is phenomenal, his bowing at once wildly abandoned and absolutely precise in terms of his musical intentions. He has the advantage of a brother-in-arms in Hough, who treats the score with the symphonic sweep it deserves.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2005 *****

“In 1984 Steven Isserlis made excellent recordings for Hyperion of the Brahms sonatas with Peter Evans; this time he's added some substantial extra items – the two Suk pieces, wonderfully played, are particularly welcome. The new recording is fuller in sound and more realistic; Stephen Hough's commanding playing of Brahms's 'big' piano parts could, one feels, overpower the cello but, thanks to his sensitivity, this never happens.
In the sonatas, the timings are in nearly every case slightly shorter, due not to any very different tempi but because the music now flows more easily, with less sense of effort. Some listeners may miss the intensity of Evans's involvement with the music but the new versions have a wonderful sense of line, and Hough's more detached approach comes with vivid characterisation – seen in the sinister colours of No 2's Allegro passionato, for example, or the limpid, elegant playing of No 1's Allegrettoquasi menuetto.
Only in one place, the finale of No 2, is there the feeling that Hough's fluency creates a problem: repeating the opening theme, he pushes on in a way that detracts from the sunny, contented atmosphere at the start. These are deeply considered, immensely satisfying accounts. Isserlis and Hough make a formidable team.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Sonically the instruments are equal partners, and musically that's deliciously the case as well, with Isserlis and Hough reacting to every nuance of the other's playing, finishing each others' musical sentences...The timbre of Isserlis's gut-strung cello is another plus” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 29th November 2005

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2006

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - December 2005

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Brahms: Clarinet Quintet and Trio

Brahms: Clarinet Quintet and Trio


Brahms:

Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115

Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114


Thea King (clarinet), Clifford Benson (piano), Karine Georgian (cello)

Gabrieli String Quartet

“These players' tempo in the Clarinet Quintet is more leisurely than most of their rivals. In the faster flanking movements of the trio, a stronger forward drive mightn't have come amiss. On the other hand, they allow themselves time to savour every bar to the full. Strinking in both these performances is their underlying warmth of heart. You'll respond easily to their quality of good-natured, unforced civility. The ensemble is excellent, with the clarinet very much one of the team, never assuming the role of soloist in a quasi-chamber concerto.
Thea King's phrasing is unfailingly perceptive and stylish, and her undemonstrative, wise artistry in both works is most appealing. In the Trio, the sumptuous-sounding cello is impressive, which at times makes you feel that Brahms could just as well have called the work a cello trio. This is a disc which will bear frequent repetition. Playing such as this, committed and serious, yet at the same time relaxed and spontaneous, isn't easy to contrive in the recording studio, and Hyperion has done well to capture these interpretations on the wing.
The sound is very good indeed, mellow and natural.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“a radiantly beautiful performance of the Clarinet Quintet, as fine as any put on record, expressive and spontaneous-sounding, with natural ebb and flow of tension as in a live performance” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Brahms - Motets

Brahms - Motets


Brahms:

Motets (2), Op. 29

Geistliches Lied, Op. 30

Sacred choruses (3) for unaccompanied four-part female chorus, Op. 37

Der 13. Psalm "Herr, wie lange" Op. 27

Motets (3), Op. 110

Motets (2), Op. 74

Ave Maria, Op. 12

Fest- und Gedenksprüche, Op. 109


“A must for any serious collector” Organists Review

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Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 & 4 Klavierstücke

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 & 4 Klavierstücke


Brahms:

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83

Klavierstücke (4), Op. 119


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Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3 & Ballades

Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3 & Ballades


Brahms:

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5

Ballades (4), Op. 10


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Brahms - String Quartet & Piano Quintet

Brahms - String Quartet & Piano Quintet


Brahms:

Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2


“These new versions from Stephen Hough and the Takács Quartet strike me as even better, and in more modern sound … in both Quintet and Quartet the performers give bright, focused, alert, almost ‘classical’ readings, very different from the ponderous brown studies that marked Brahms performances of yesteryear … this is an altogether recommendable release” BBC Music Magazine

“In both Quintet and Quartet the performers give bright, focused, alert, almost 'classical' readings…” BBC Music Magazine, January 2008 ****

“In the Brahms Second Quartet the Takács find a most appealing lightness of touch. They reveal anew the extraordinarily imaginative way in which the work begins, and breathe air into the intricate textures which precede the vacillating second theme. There's an absolute unanimity to their playing, but a fetching liveliness too. Compared to such groups as the Alban Berg, who revel in the lushness of Brahms's writing, the Takács are more febrile and transparent. Their third movement creeps in, skittering, but there's no lack of sweetness of tone when required. And the fugal section has a spring in its step. Brahms isn't all seriousness, they remind us.
The other major selling-point of this disc is the Piano Quintet, for which the Takács are joined by Stephen Hough. There's nothing cosy about this latest reading, which has fire and passion aplenty, and the recording places Hough pleasingly within the overall texture rather than unduly spotlighting him. There's a feeling of coming together of ideas, with these artists – masters of colour all of them – sparking off one another in a very unstudio-ish way. And throughout, Hough's virtuosity makes light of Brahms's unforgiving textures.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“In the Brahms Second Quartet the Takács fins a most appealing lightness of touch. … the Piano Quintet… has fire and passion aplenty… There's a feeling of coming together of ideas, with these artists… sparking off one another in a very unstudio-ish way.” Gramophone Magazine, Janurary 2008

“This is the finest recording of Brahms’s Piano Quintet since the electrifying Eschenbach/Amadeus version … Stephen Hough and the Takács Quartet push the music about as far as it can go … one senses from the start that [Hough] is really fired up and the Takács follow him every inch of the way with playing of beguiling tonal sophistication and thrilling intensity … this is an exceptional account of a truly exceptional masterwork … the Takács gently caress and cosset this extraordinary music with a glowing sensitivity and insight … highly recommended, especially to those who normally find Brahms a composer they admire rather than fall in love with” International Record Review

“a model for what chamber music should be” The Guardian

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Brahms - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3

Brahms - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3


Brahms:

String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67

String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51 No. 1


New recordings by the Takács Quartet on Hyperion have become important landmarks in the musical calendar. This second disc of Brahms string quartets looks set to repeat all the commercial and critical success of their first.

It took twenty years for the famously self-critical Brahms to release his Op 51 string quartets for publication. Despite frequent requests, they were held back until they had reached his requisite standard of perfection. It is clear that Brahms’s struggle with the string quartet medium eventually led him to find an intensely personal language for it, with an unmistakable originality of melody and texture. Op 51 No 1 is both suffused with great musical richness and organically unified, with each idea growing with unerring logic out of the last in a process of continual development, and the main subject of each movement clearly arising out of the same germ.

Having hesitated so long over his first two string quartets, Brahms managed to produce their successor, Op 67, without any protracted birth-pangs, and the fact that the new work was dedicated to a well-known physician prompted him to elaborate on the medical analogy. ‘I am’, he told Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann (the husband of the pianist Emma Brandes, and himself a keen amateur cellist) ‘publishing a string quartet, and may need a doctor for it (as with the first ones). This quartet rather resembles your wife—very dainty, but brilliant! … It’s no longer a question of a forceps delivery; but of simply standing by. There’s no cello solo in it, but such a tender viola solo that you may want to change your instrument for its sake!’

“Muscular, austere, tautly argued performances from a close-knit group.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2008

“Their approach is alert, texturally clear and passionate … these are admriable performances which I recommend to any prospective buyer … this new Takács reading weighs in at the top end of the many available versions” BBC Music Magazine

“The Takács chart the music’s undulating emotions with a compelling assuredness … playing of radiant warmth and phrasal sensitivity. Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon work wonders in capturing a warm yet articulate ambience for these physically imposing and richly detailed scores. Strongly recommended” International Record Review

“Viola to the fore in the third movement, Agitato, of No 3; and Geraldine Walther, firm-toned and assertive, rises to the occasion as the only un-muted instrumentalist here. Agitation isn't consistently maintained though because the Takács Quartet tend to ease the tension in places. Yet there is no slack in the other movements.
This close-knit group unanimously stretch or tighten the rhythm, achieving evenly matched dynamics such as the sotto voce sequences in the opening Vivace, the hushed dolce e grazioso in the recapitulation of the Andante and the stilled peace of the G flat sixth variation in the finale. Walther is well in the picture in this movement too whereas elsewhere she appears occasionally to lose focus.
Not so in No 1. Her place on the right of the ensemble is firmly assured here. The work is 'commonly held to be representative of Brahms's austerity and asceticism' (Edwin Evans), and these epithets are apposite for the Takács, spare of style and tone. The players' control over the first movement doesn't preclude a range of rubato that serves to sharpen the musical argument.
Nor does it preclude a linear drive that knits the six themes of the last movement into a coherent whole, while they do not let up on the melancholy of the middle movements, the third particularly dark. The recording is tonally credible but is widely separated.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2009

Finalist - Chamber

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Brahms: String Quintets

Brahms: String Quintets


Brahms:

String Quintet No. 1 in F major, Op. 88

String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111


‘It was in the G major string quintet … that the Takács players again hit special heights, achieving near-miracles of balance and interplay and with Geraldine Walther and guest Lawrence Power delivering a masterclass of contrasting but complementary viola playing’ (The Guardian)

The Takács Quartet have been recently described as ‘one of the world’s most distinguished ensembles’. Here they collaborate with Britain’s greatest living viola player, Lawrence Power, who with his long association with The Nash Ensemble among others has also proved himself a remarkable chamber musician.

Brahms’s String Quintets (Opp 88 and 111) both represent landmarks of the Romantic chamber music repertoire, and demonstrate the composer’s utter mastery of the genre.

“These fine performances make a strong case for them.” Sunday Times, 6th April 2014

“Everything sounds as though it has been thought through extensively...The Takács's Brahms is like a superbly engineered road: we always know where we're going, and the views can be magnificent, but there are some interesting contours hidden beneath the tarmac.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2014 ****

“try this inspiring Takács Quartet disc with Lawrence Power as guest viola, his big-boned sound matching the expressive energy of the Takács's own Geraldine Walther.” The Observer, 17th April 2014 ****

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