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One of the most gorgeous recorded versions of Schubert’s String Quintet is now available once more, after its relatively short-lived release as a full-price CD. The cellist was Christopher van Kampen, with whom the Fitzwilliams performed often. Appearing on CD for the first time is the Quartet’s recording of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, with Alan Hacker (who sweeps away any of the work’s ‘autumnal’ associations, emphasizing, rather, its Zigeuner elements) – one of Britain’s finest performers described by Alan George in his introductory note as ‘totally inspirational and revelatory in everything he did and touched, based on an obsessively enquiring and probing mind, allied to a flair in performance which, at its best, could have listeners eating out of his hands’. Wolf’s little Italian Serenade too makes a first appearance on CD.
Alan George writes introductory notes and in addition to his note on the Schubert String Quintet and Wolf’s Italian Serenade, and Alan Hacker’s on the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, is a fascinating essay by Wilfrid Mellers entitled ‘Schubert’s Dream of Eden’. As well there is a biography of the Fitzwilliam Quartet and a note on their Decca recording team.
“This is a thoughtful performance … In the first movement the cellos play that marvellous second subject as Schubert wanted it, pianissimo, resisting the temptation to show off their tone mezzo-forte; and very lovely it sounds. The whole ensemble responds with unusual skill when Schubert asks for a diminuendo when the music is already pp, and that takes some doing. But there is plenty of vigour for contrast.”
“This is a very sensitive performance of the Brahms in which just about everything seems to go well. The first movement has arguably exactly the right degree of forward pressure without losing any of its reflective beauty; the second catches exactly the right degree of Hungarian style for the passages based on that. In the third movement the wisps of sound are thrown off with exceptional skill. […] Overall, this performance is among the very best.”
“a splendidly lively reading”
“finely paced and beautifully integrated”
“a sparkling account … well-defined recording”
“a reading exceptionally faithful to Schubert’s markings, yet one which with freshness and seeming spontaneity conveys the work’s masterly power and impulse too […] The reading overall is deeply thoughtful, never exaggerated in expressiveness, but naturally compelling […] The recording is superbly full and atmospheric and has remarkable presence”
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