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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
String Sextet No. 2 in G, Op. 36 [39:38]
String Sextet No. 1 in B flat, Op. 18 [37:47]
Quatuor Sine Nomine; Nicolas Pache (viola); François Guye (cello)
rec. 2014, Théâtre populaire romand, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland CLAVES 50-1410 [77:25]
Hot on the heels of the Alexander String Quartet’s wonderful Brahms quintets/sextets double album, here’s another superb recording of the two sextets. These early works combine the young composer’s large-scale ambition with his budding lyrical voice. Ensembles usually make a choice about what to emphasize. The Quatuor Sine Nomine opt for the expansive and this really lets the music’s gorgeous melodies sing. They’re even slower and more immersive than the Alexanders.
The amiable nature of this music makes a bad performance difficult to imagine but take note, here, of the laid-back approach the quartet takes to the Sextet No. 2’s scherzo, and how successful it is. The First Sextet’s slow movement, a theme-and-variations, has more drama than anything in the second piece.
The Quatuor Sine Nomine are a superb group, and they have a track record of successful collaborations with François Guye. You might remember their Schubert String Quintet, the adagio of which stretches out to a haunting 16:35. You might know the quartet’s advocacy of Dora Pejačević (review). I didn’t know the violist Nicolas Pache until now but he also fits in flawlessly and the players really are six equals.
My colleague Stephen Greenbank made this a Recording of the Month, and his enthusiasm is totally justified. Between the playing, the sonics and the packaging, with its wonderful reproductions of old maps, this is a first-rate production and a great way to refresh your love for early Brahms.