piano concerto was the work that finally turned me from
rock music to classical. Inspired and with the aid of
the Penguin Guide
, I investigated some of his
other works, not surprisingly finding the piano quintet
very much to my liking; and so it has remained my favourite
piece of chamber music.
early Naxos recording of the Schumann and Brahms by Jénö Jandó and
the Kodály Quartet (8.550406) has been my companion over
these years, and it has always satisfied me, especially
in the Schumann. All the while, I have been aware that
there had to be a better recording of each work, but
none had thrust itself forward as a candidate. It might
surprise you that for such a well-known work, it is not
recorded all that often. On ArkivMusic, it has 48 listings,
but that is far fewer than at least ten other Schumann
works, including the four symphonies. On MusicWeb International,
there have only been two reviews in the last year or
so: one an Alban Berg Quartet re-release (see review
and the other, a Czech radio recording (see review
was until I saw the Andsnes/Artemis CD whilst browsing
my local record shop - if you can count one that is 100
miles away as local! I had recently watched a documentary
on the young Norwegian pianist, and felt this might be
the disc I had been seeking. I was right.
first listen was through the rather unflattering speakers
of a hotel DVD player, but that didn’t matter. The pounding
piano part of the first movement leapt into the room
and demanded my attention immediately. An absolutely
compelling performance ensued – I was entranced, enraptured
and enthralled. Good as my old Naxos recording was – and
in researching this review, I was pleased to see how
highly my colleague Michael Cookson regards it (in a review
the Brahms on MDG) – this performance is quite extraordinary.
The finale is an electrifying mix of relentless drive
and subtle delicate humour, and builds to a breathless
climax. Sitting at my desk listening, I still feel like
standing up and applauding as I undoubtedly do if I was
ever lucky enough to hear it performed live by this group.
Brahms had always seemed a poor relation of the Schumann
on the basis of the two recordings I owned – the Naxos
and a Philips Duo with Werner Haas and members of the
Berlin Philharmonic Octet – but that was dispelled by
a performance here which was perhaps even better than
the Schumann. Passion, drama and tenderness are the hallmarks
of this truly glorious rendition. Listen to the Scherzo – playing
doesn’t get any better than this.
sound is very good, though perhaps the piano dominates
a little too much – mind you, given the two composers,
this is not really inappropriate – and it would appear
that one of the players had a cold during the recording.
The ensemble playing is truly exceptional, a true partnership
of equals, rather than battle between pianist and strings
as can happen sometimes with a concert pianist playing
I am, however, at a loss to account for the light fittings
that the players are holding in the cover photograph.
September, this recording was awarded the Gramophone
magazine Chamber Music Performance of the year. I am
not even remotely surprised – when the editorial team
here at MusicWeb International constructed our list of
favourite recordings (Our Classic Classics
this went straight into mine, as it will into my Recordings
of The Year. No matter how much you like the recordings
you already have
you have to have this one.