Brahms/Schoenberg: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34; Chamber Symphony, Op. 9 (arr. for Piano Quintet by Webern)

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COMPOSERS: Brahms/Schoenberg
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34; Chamber Symphony, Op. 9 (arr. for Piano Quintet by Webern)
PERFORMER: Paul Gulda (piano), Hagen Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 437 804-2 DDD
The Hagen Quartet has recorded Brahms’s F minor Piano Quintet previously for Philips, with Oleg Maisenberg: an apprentice version only partially eclipsed by this newcomer. Now joined by pianist Paul Gulda, the Hagens are never poised to seize the laurels from the Italian and Guarneri quartets; great performances with Pollini and Rubinstein respectively.

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At just on 15 minutes (including exposition repeat), the first movement is sensibly paced. Gulda’s rhetorical approach tempers gravity with nostalgia, never disguising the brooding inclinations of each musical argument. The Hagens’ Scherzo is as explosive as their Andante is blandly predictable; Gulda, too, disappoints here, in curiously detached understatement. Cellist Clemens Hagen launches the finale proper in fine style, after a less than ideally searching slow introduction. What follows is outwardly impressive, though never revelatory. Happily, no finer account exists of Webern’s piano quintet transcription of Schoenberg’s Op. 9 Chamber Symphony, with outstanding playing from all concerned. Michael Jameson