WORKS: String Quintet in G, Op. 111
PERFORMER: Brandis Quartet, Brett Dean (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5488
After Beethoven and Schubert, interest in the string quintet fell away as composers tended to look towards larger orchestral and symphonic forms (which were more likely to fill the concert hall). So it is surprising that, of all people, Bruckner, who had dedicated himself almost without exception to choral and orchestral works, should fulfil a commission for a chamber work in 1879 by producing a string quintet. The Brandis Quartet with Australian violist Brett Dean give a sympathetic account, showing how Bruckner’s primarily symphonic imagination – especially evident in the scherzo and trio and the spacious development of the Adagio – is offset by the claims of the quintet form itself for intimacy. The work is at its most effective in the surprisingly lyrical first movement, whose open textures are here delineated with tenderness and clarity. If the warmth of the playing goes some way to mitigating Bruckner’s solemnity – some might say emotional niggardliness – it is well suited to Brahms’s vibrant 1890 Quintet. This is a bravura piece of chamber writing; from the shimmering, rich textures of the opening onwards, Brahms demonstrates all the assurance of his maturity, and his demands – technical and interpretative – are met here with panache.
There is more Brahms from violinist Arturo Delmoni and pianist Yuri Funahashi, who give a genial, if occasionally overwrought account of the G major Sonata. They offer an interesting coupling in Amy Beach’s 1896 Sonata, an accomplished piece of late Romanticism, for which the duo make an appealing case.