The Brodsky Quartet
present the first of two discs that will feature Brahms's complete string quartets. This recording includes the String Quartet Op. 51 No. 2 with the Clarinet Quintet in B minor. The second string quartet was written alongside its contrasting companion, the String Quartet Op. 51 No. 1. They were both finally published in 1873 after being held back for years by a typically self-doubting Brahms until he had brought them to his own standards of perfection. Of the two, the second is warmer, more affirmative and relaxed, with few extremes of tempo or mood. It is a work that often looks backward, incorporating hints of baroque devices in his lyrical writing.
The Clarinet Quintet in B minor was the last expansive piece Brahms wrote, written after his first intended retirement from composition. It was the artistry of clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld
that inspired him to return to composition and write his last four chamber works, including the quintet recorded here. It explores an atmosphere of elegy and nostalgia, producing a mood of autumnal resignation. The clarinet is rarely treated as a prima donna
soloist, rather it is organically integrated into the work's closely woven textures. Having performed this work in concert many times, the Brodsky Quartet
and Michael Collins
come together once again in this recording of the Brahms Quintet.
Perhaps no clarinettist around today is capable of floating a purer, smoother, more beautifully contoured melodic line than Michael Collins, and he is often heard at his best in the four late masterpieces that Brahms dedicated to the artistry of the clarinettist Richard Muhlfeld. Performance *** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, Apr'14
The Brodskys are excellent in their intelligent presentation of the music, so that the often very complicated textures assist rather than confuse the action of the music and the presentation of the themes. The recording engineers have brought an intelligent ear to the style of the music and the richness yet lucidity of the playing. IRR OUTSTANDING --IRR, Apr'14
Michael Collins's awareness of his role as primus inter pares rather than prima donna is one of the special joys of this outstanding disc. This is outstanding even by Collins and Brodsky's standards. --Gramophone, May'14