Schubert sonatas

Newest Releases

Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

Free classical music concerts by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.


Moravec - Twelfth Night Recital
15%off £17.21 (until Dec 7)

Katerina Englichová - harp
15%0ff £10.83 (until Dec 7)

  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo
  • Stellar debut<br>piano recital
  • Clarinet transcriptions Jonathan Cohler
  • Jonathan Cohler & Claremont Trio
  • French clarinet masterpieces
  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo

Sibelius Symphonies Maazel
4CDs + Blu-ray audio
Special Price £36.75

RVW A Sea Symphony - Elder

Shostakovich Symphony 10 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem

Dvorak Opera Premiere

Grieg, Mendelssohn sonatas




Would you like a hyperlinked weekly summary of the CDs we have reviewed?

Click for further details

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Prima voce
Red Priest
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

AmazonUK AmazonUS

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
String Quartet no.1 Op.51 No.1 in C minor [34:33]
Piano Quintet Op.34 in F Minor [44:09]
Quatuor Ébène; Akiko Yamamoto (piano)
rec. Ferme de Villefavard en Limousin, 5-8 May 2007 (Op.51 No.1); Fondation Singer-Polignac, Paris, 1-3 October 2007 (Op.34). DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 2166222 [78:42] 
Experience Classicsonline

French interpreters of Brahms face a range of prejudices. Can they do justice to the Classical rigour that underpins his Romanticism? Are they sufficiently in touch with his oedipal relationship with Beethoven? In the case of Quatuor Ébène the answer is ... yes … just about. The players have no hang-ups about these issues. They give these readings of the First String Quartet and the Piano Quintet the ebb and flow the works need to breathe. The players are all young, raising the prospect of another set of prejudices about the automatic need for personal maturity when interpreting works of this depth - a view that wilfully ignores the relatively young age at which Brahms wrote them. Again, this has a bearing on the interpretation. These performances have a certain face-value quality - not so much pedantic loyalty to the indications in the score as a sense of imposed correctness in the way that rubato and dynamic deviations are applied. 

The performance of the First String Quartet (Op.51 No.1) is admirable for its delicacy: the way that individual phrases are sculpted, the precise balance in the contrapuntal development sections. The recording acoustic is dry, and the microphones are close, allowing the quietest textures to be reproduced with a satisfyingly visceral sound of bow hair against string. The stereo array of the recording is also impressively engineered. The viola is clearly heard throughout, despite sharing the right channel with the more robust cello. 

The argument could be made that there is not enough structural thinking behind the interpretation, but we are not talking about Bruckner symphonies here, and the focus on the moment rarely seems inappropriate. The repeats in the score are all faithfully observed, with changes of dynamic and timbre added in each second iteration to give musical justification. The ensemble is good, but it’s not faultless, and passages at the dynamic extremes are usually the ones that suffer: stratospheric pianissimo octave doublings between the violins, for example, and fortissimo section climaxes. It’s not a big grumble, but with this repertoire the competition is fierce. 

The Piano Quintet (Op.34) is given an appropriately epic reading, by turns expansive, heroic, even symphonic. Pianist Akiko Yamamoto matches the Ébène sound magnificently. Here again the precision of the recorded sound pays dividends, with Yamamoto’s touch at the quietest dynamics complementing the strings, and all picked up in sensational detail. As for the more dramatic passages, neither pianist nor quartet holds back on the music’s extremes. The details of Brahms’ dynamics pose a certain problem with regard to tastefulness; he often gives very brief hairpins between extreme dynamics over the course of a few notes. The quartet achieve an impressive feat in honouring these directions and making the results sound dramatic rather than histrionic. 

These are much recorded works, so it is to the credit of Quatuor Ébène and Akiko Yamamoto that their interpretations are both fresh and individual. They are unlikely to wrest the benchmark status from recordings by more mature performers - the Takács Quartet - or top name German groups - the Artemis Quartet - but this is an elegant and accomplished recording, and deserves to be appreciated for its own considerable merits. 

Gavin Dixon 




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.