Mendelssohn/Brahms: Piano Quartet in F minor; Piano Quartet in G minor

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn/Brahms
LABELS: ASV Quicksilva
WORKS: Piano Quartet in F minor; Piano Quartet in G minor
PERFORMER: The Schubert Ensemble of London
These are reliably adroit performances from the Schubert Ensemble of London, though without the punch and verve required to set the adrenalin coursing. There’s still much to savour; the prodigal inventiveness of the teenage Mendelssohn’s F minor Piano Quartet, Op. 2, registers agreeably enough, with William Howard making light of the piano part’s exacting difficulties throughout. But this amiable, pleasingly nonchalant approach masks a deeper angst and emotionalism not often the province of youth; Domus (Virgin) ploughs a deeper, more reflective furrow in its superior 1991 recording. The performance of the G minor Brahms Quartet has moments of distinction (the Andante has a rapt, confessional beauty), but evinces little gravitas and grandeur. The defiant ‘gypsy’ rondo-finale struts its stuff proudly and winsomely, though one need only set this reading alongside the spectacular and passionately idiomatic Sony version by Stern, Laredo, Ma and Ax to appreciate just how much remains unsaid here. Michael Jameson