Brahms: String Sextet No. 1; String Sextet No. 2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: String Sextet No. 1; String Sextet No. 2
PERFORMER: Members of the Alban Berg Quartet/Amadeus Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54216 2 DDD
Brahms’s two sextets were his first published works for strings alone. They are remarkably autumnal pieces for so young a composer, and both are imbued with the rich inner part-writing of which he was so fond.

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EMI have previously issued these players’ performance of the second sextet, from a Paris concert given in memory of the Amadeus Quartet’s viola player, Peter Schidlof. That disc also contained, as a substantial encore, the variation slow movement from the Sextet No. 1, so perhaps there is some peculiar logic to this new companion disc’s inclusion – again as an encore – of the Scherzo from No. 2.

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The recording conveys very much the feel of a ‘live’ event. The performance itself is an affectionate one, and it is difficult not to warm to it. Occasionally it is perhaps a shade too mellow: the main second subject of the opening movement needs to move forward if the music is to take wing as it should (Brahms marks it ‘animato’). The recorded sound is perfectly adequate, though Martin Lovett’s tone sounds somewhat undernourished for a work so often led from the first cello. Enjoyable, all the same: Amadeus admirers, in particular, will not be disappointed. Misha Donat