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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1 arranged for piano, 4 hands
String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2 arranged for piano, 4 hands
Silke-Thora Matthies (piano)
Christian Kohn (piano)
Rec. Clara-Wieck-Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany, 7-9 August 1997
Four-Hand Piano Music Vol. 10
NAXOS 8.557056 [55.56]

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.

Michael Cookson

see also review by Terry Barfoot

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