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Brahms: Complete String Quartets / Schubert: "Death and the Maiden", Quartettsatz

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Includes FREE MP3 version of this album.
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Product details

  • Performer: Tokyo String Quartet
  • Composer: Brahms, Schubert
  • Audio CD (4 Jun. 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Vox
  • ASIN: B00005BC5Q
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 343,559 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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3
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4
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5
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6
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7
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8
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Disc 2
1
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7:42
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2
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3
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7:57
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4
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10:25
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5
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6
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7
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8
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9
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Product Description

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This 2 disc set combines the complete Brahms String Quartets, recorded in 1984 with two of the late Schubert Quartets recorded in 1982. The Schubert recording of the 14th quartet is not the same as that released by Sony with the same players and recorded just a few years later in 1987.

The first two Brahms quartets were early works but which were published long after their completion in the 1870's. The third quartet was published at a similar time but not long after it's composition. In terms of their relative characteristics they have been described as encompassing drama in the first, sentiment in the second and humour in the third (D. Mason's The Chamber Music of Brahms). While listeners may not entirely accept these descriptions in detail it seems reasonable that they are fairly appropriate to the general overall mood of the pieces. Certainly the third is cast in a lighter vein than the first two and this is caught well by the Tokyo Quartet.

The Tokyo Quartet has a playing style that is essentially dramatic with a sonorous foundation centred on a strong cello line. Their playing is forwardly paced in general terms and their playing characteristics demonstrate considerable elasticity and fluidity. These perfectly suit this music from the heart of the Romantic period. Bearing in mind this essential empathy, the quality of the playing and that of the recording, there is a good case to suggest that this set of the three quartets will be more than sufficient to satisfy most lovers of the music.

Their performances of the two Schubert quartets are extremely dramatic, especially in relation to the powerfully written 14th quartet. The 12th receives a fleet and strong performance too.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have long loved the Tokyo quartet. The only member remaining from their founding in 1969 is violist Kazuhide Isomura, but the Tokyo have maintained their special warmth and lyricism over forty years and through the changes in personnel, mainly in the first violin. Their qualities are an intensity which derives from subtle phrasing and dynamics without the need to sound frantic or driven and a miraculous balance within the consort whereby no member ever upstages another but each emerges then recedes as the music spotlights their role before requiring them to underpin another.

I remain mystified by the number of otherwise cultivated music lovers I encounter who claim to be repelled by Brahms. I have a theory that his uncompromisingly masculine mode of expression alienates many in an age which seems to prize androgyny and ambiguity - but maybe that sounds like sexist hogwash to more progressive sensibilities. All I know is that I find much of his music to be achingly beautiful in form and nobly heroic in intent - far from the dour whingefest which some judge it to be. These performances give his three great string quartets - sole survivors of goodness knows how many bonfires of juvenilia - the most persuasive advocacy imaginable and then for good measure provide us with the most apt and obvious forebear of and inspiration for Brahms' chamber music in the form of two of Schubert's masterworks. The dancing 6/8 melody in the "Quartettsatz" is wonderfully fluent and insouciant, holding off the menacing demons until at the last instant they breach its naive defences (so what a pity that they don't take the repeat).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x902666e4) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ff162c4) out of 5 stars Exquisite performances of great music by a favourite quartet 30 Sept. 2010
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have long loved the Tokyo quartet. The only member remaining from their founding in 1969 is violist Kazuhide Isomura, but the Tokyo have maintained their special warmth and lyricism over forty years and through the changes in personnel, mainly in the first violin. Their qualities are an intensity which derives from subtle phrasing and dynamics without the need to sound frantic or driven and a miraculous balance within the consort whereby no member ever upstages another but each emerges then recedes as the music spotlights their role before requiring them to underpin another.

I remain mystified by the number of otherwise cultivated music lovers I encounter who claim to be repelled by Brahms. I have a theory that his uncompromisingly masculine mode of expression alienates many in an age which seems to prize androgyny and ambiguity - but maybe that sounds like sexist hogwash to more progressive sensibilities. All I know is that I find much of his music to be achingly beautiful in form and nobly heroic in intent - far from the dour whingefest which some judge it to be. These performances give his three great string quartets - sole survivors of goodness knows how many bonfires of juvenilia - the most persuasive advocacy imaginable and then for good measure provide us with the most apt and obvious forebear of and inspiration for Brahms' chamber music in the form of two of Schubert's masterworks. The dancing 6/8 melody in the "Quartettsatz" is wonderfully fluent and insouciant, holding off the menacing demons until at the last instant they breach its naive defences (so what a pity that they don't take the repeat). Likewise, in the Andante con moto" of the "Death and the Maiden", the filigree delicacy of the Tokyo's arpeggios in the third variation forms a telling contrast with the subsequent, defiant, ostinato variation. I could do with a tad more fire and attack in the grimly sardonic Presto which concludes the work, but the climax is satisfyingly frenetic and virtuosic.

This early 80's digital recording, made during an extended period of stability in personnel, here sounds ideal for conveying the lush, plush string tone which characterises the Tokyo Quartet; no glassiness, instead a round and ambient warmth rather than the clean, clinical acoustic typical of that period - although I do not wish to suggest that this obscures any necessary detail.

So much great music available at bargain price in a neat twofer. I shall keep my New World String Quartet super-bargain IMP single disc of the first two quartets because they too are fine performances and include the first movement repeats which the Tokyo unfortunately omit.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x900f31c8) out of 5 stars Dramatically compelling performances well recorded and generously priced 20 Jan. 2015
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
This 2 disc set combines the complete Brahms String Quartets, recorded in 1984 with two of the late Schubert Quartets recorded in 1982. The Schubert recording of the 14th quartet is not the same as that released by Sony with the same players and recorded just a few years later in 1987.

The first two Brahms quartets were early works but which were published long after their completion in the 1870's. The third quartet was published at a similar time but not long after it's composition. In terms of their relative characteristics they have been described as encompassing drama in the first, sentiment in the second and humour in the third (D. Mason's The Chamber Music of Brahms). While listeners may not entirely accept these descriptions in detail it seems reasonable that they are fairly appropriate to the general overall mood of the pieces. Certainly the third is cast in a lighter vein than the first two and this is caught well by the Tokyo Quartet.

The Tokyo Quartet has a playing style that is essentially dramatic with a sonorous foundation centred on a strong cello line. Their playing is forwardly paced in general terms and their playing characteristics demonstrate considerable elasticity and fluidity. These perfectly suit this music from the heart of the Romantic period. Bearing in mind this essential empathy, the quality of the playing and that of the recording, there is a good case to suggest that this set of the three quartets will be more than sufficient to satisfy most lovers of the music.

Their performances of the two Schubert quartets are extremely dramatic, especially in relation to the powerfully written 14th quartet. The 12th receives a fleet and strong performance too. What is interesting are the comparisons that can be made with their later recordings of both works. This slightly earlier performance of the Death and the Maiden quartet from 1982, although sharing similar timings to that of the 1987 version on Sony, is markedly more driven in its attack, more dramatic in mood, darker and altogether more exciting and compelling in a dramatic sense. The later version delivers an alternative experience and is equally satisfying in its less driven manner. Both versions are equally well recorded. The 12th quartet can be compared with their SACD recording of 2010, coupled with the string quintet and played by a new violinist and cellist. Once more, this earlier version is faster and more urgent. This impression is emphasised with the later versions far more sonorous surround sound format which arguably be said to blunt a degree of the attack. There is a strong case to suggest collecting all of these discs with their different couplings and interpretive slants.

In total this is a collection of dramatically compelling performances, presented in good sound and generously priced. It deserves serious consideration from collectors regardless of other recordings that they may own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91b42024) out of 5 stars Desert Island Composition 1 July 2013
By J. A. Faux - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Schubert's Death and the Maiden is one of my desert island pieces. I like complex chamber music such as this, and though I was brought up on the late 50's through early 70's recordings this is THE recording. This my the first CD recording of the 'Maiden, and it is superb... tight, clear, rich, all hyperbole. I wasn't familiar with the Brahms, but this is a superbly recorded compilation.
HASH(0x9174abd0) out of 5 stars But the Tokyo really emphasized the romantic repertory -- their Brahms is appropriately lush sounding (and wonderfully delicate 29 Feb. 2016
By T Boyer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
These are absolutely top caliber performances from the time in the early 80s-early 90s when Peter Oundjian was playing first violin. During that time the only real peer for this quartet in sheer virtuosity and quality of sound would have been Emerson and Guarneri. But the Tokyo really emphasized the romantic repertory -- their Brahms is appropriately lush sounding (and wonderfully delicate at times) but what really distinguishes these performances is the absolute clarity and tremendous dedication to bringing out all the voices in Brahms' counterpoint.

The Tokyo's Schubert is fantastic (I believe they added "Death and the Maiden" to this set for the mp3 download version, but don't miss their "Rosamunde" which is impeccable. There's also a recording of the Brahms piano quartet with Barry Douglas that is wonderful.
HASH(0x8ffd6d2c) out of 5 stars Five Stars 2 Mar. 2015
By Azaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
such wonderful and clear performances.
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