Brahms was a most accomplished
pianist and supported his family financially
from an early age playing the piano
in dockside bordellos in the port of
Hamburg. Furthermore his output for
the piano spanned his entire life often
making piano reductions of his orchestral,
choral and chamber works; many of them
for piano-duo to allow them greater
accessibility to a wider audience. Only
this week I heard on the radio a piano
reduction of his mighty German Requiem.
This Naxos release
contains reductions for four-hand piano
of the first and second string quartets
Op. 51 which Brahms composed between
1868 and 1873. These are most welcome
additions to the catalogue. German-born
duo Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian
Kohn have been performing as a partnership
for almost twenty years and seem at
one with this repertoire.
In playing which is
constantly persuasive the duo easily
sustain momentum in sparkling performances.
These are characteristically dense and
almost orchestral in texture, where
it would have been so easy for the players
to become bogged down. The duo are particularly
successful in the Allegro molto moderato
e comodo and the final movement
Allegro of the C minor quartet
offering fluid and ardent interpretations.
In the A minor quartet a particular
highlight for me is the performance
of the dark and moody second movement
Andante moderato where the soloists
are compelling and masterly.
For some reason Naxos
made these recordings back in 1997 without
releasing them until now. The release
was well worth waiting for as these
are very fine performances of fascinating
and rewarding arrangements. A pleasing
release that will find many supporters.
also review by Terry Barfoot