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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor op.25 (1861)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)

Fantasiestucke for piano, violin and cello op.88 (1842)
Martha Argerich (piano)
Gidon Kremer (violin)
Yuri Bashmet (viola)
Mischa Maisky (cello)
Recording: Teldec Studio, Berlin. February 2002
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 463 700-2 [58:17]

The atmosphere must have been nothing short of electric when the glittering star soloists Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet and Mischa Maisky came together in February 2002 in Berlin to make this recording. It seems that idea behind these recordings was conceived as a result of highly acclaimed recitals at the Verbier festival.
It is frequently stated that superstar solo performers do not make first-class chamber musicians. After listening to this recording that contention is well and truly open to doubt. This is truly inspired chamber playing - masterly performances!
In 1861 Brahms made his Vienna debut as a composer and pianist to great acclaim with this unqualified masterwork which has remained a perennial favourite of audiences. Music writer Donald Francis Tovey described the noble opening movement as original, impressive and tragic. The group fluently transform the triumphant and tender themes of the allegro into tragic pathos. An agitated and moody intermezzo takes the place of the usual scherzo movement. The players perform this capricious and troubled second movement with considerable exhilaration. Brahms conceived the andante on a grand scale in memory of Robert Schumann. This is one of Brahms’ most richly poetic and romantic utterances and the responsive strings of Kremer, Bashmet and Maisky breathe as one. With its arresting colours and Hungarian and gypsy melodies the concluding movement is performed with passion and white-hot intensity. The astonishing fingerwork of pianist Martha Argerich is simply breathtaking. This is the most vital and exciting chamber performance that I have ever experienced.

The Schumann Fantasiestücke for piano, violin and cello op.88 from 1842 is a much lighter and less dense work than the Brahms Piano Quartet. The score has been quite accurately described as ‘Schumann’s little suite of four character pieces’. An attractive and lyrical work the Fantasiestücke deserves to be treated as more than ‘mere chips from the master’s workbench’. Our distinguished musicians confidently achieve a radiant sense of fantasy in the pieces combining sharply observed detail with considerable artistry.

Really great performances with the Brahms undoubtedly a ‘classic’. An indispensable release!

Michael Cookson

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