With these performances
the exciting Belcea Quartet under the
leadership of Corina Belcea place themselves
on an equal level with the finest ensembles
in Europe. I have observed their progress
for some time, both in the recital hall
as well as in the recording studio.
On the evidence of this release the
Belceas go from strength to strength
and have attained a full maturity.
The first work is the
four movement String Quartet Op. 51
No. 1. It is not known exactly when
the work was composed. Perhaps Brahms
was exaggerating when he stated that
he had composed and destroyed twenty
other string quartets prior to the publication
of this one. Described as a ‘masterwork’
by many critics Brahms uses economy,
structural mastery and an integration
rarely encountered in his early chamber
scores. The talented Belceas play with
an enviable style and a natural warmth.
The listener is held in their spell
throughout the heart-searching of the
score’s solemnity and passion. My main
recommendation for this work however
is contained on the complete set of
the three String Quartets together with
the Piano Quintet Op.34 from the Borodin
Quartet on Teldec Ultima 8573-87802-2.
This is an amazing bargain at super
budget price and performed by the Borodins
with marvellous precision.
Composed in Bad Ischl
in 1890 when the composer was fifty
seven, Brahms intended the four movement
String Quintet, Op. 111 to be his last
chamber work. It has been said that
naturalness, harmonious effect and joy
immediately come to mind as attributes
of this work. One contemporary of Brahms
even heard "the cheerful, relaxed atmosphere
of the Vienna Prater". The composer
could only confirm this impression,
"Isn't it so! And the many pretty girls
in it!" The Belceas, augmented by Thomas
Kakuska on second viola, thoroughly
enter into the spirit of the proceedings.
The players succeed in expressing the
work’s youthful exuberance, its considerable
vigour and optimism. The playing is
of such a high-calibre that in spite
of fierce competition this is now my
These are excellent
performances from the Belceas and the
release is eminently collectable.