Brahms: String Quintet in G, Op. 111; Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: String Quintet in G, Op. 111; Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115
PERFORMER: Melos Quartet; Gérard Caussé (viola), Michel Portal (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: HMD 941349 Reissue (1991)
These two works, though written only a year apart, can perhaps be said to represent opposite sides of the composer’s character. The G major String Quintet, played here with great enthusiasm and commitment, is a predominantly sunny and optimistic piece, belying the fact that Brahms, then aged 57, felt it to be his last work. By contrast the lovely Clarinet Quintet, unquestionably one of the greatest of all chamber music compositions, is steeped in melancholy and is suffused with an all-pervading autumnal glow. The tone quality of the clarinet is central to a successful realisation of the mood and, in this respect, Michel Portal is disappointing. His sound in the middle and lower registers is poor and simply does not bear comparison with players such as Gervase de Peyer. Added to this is his rather cool approach, particularly evident in the dreamy slow movement which suffers from a lack of flexibility. Tim Payne

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