LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Piano Quartets by Brahms, Schumann, Mahler
WORKS: Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25; Quartet in A Minor; Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47
PERFORMER: Daniel Hope (violin), Paul Neubauer (viola), David Finckel (cello), Wu Han (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 479 4609
Mozart more or less invented the piano quartet genre and Schumann revived it – albeit with a Beethovenian tinge to his first movement – in the Piano Quartet, Op. 47; somewhat overshadowed by his great Piano Quintet, yet no less inventive and lovable. But it was the 28-year old Brahms who expanded the genre into a quasi-symphonic panoply of some 40 minutes in his Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor – an achievement the student Mahler duly set out to emulate, though he got no further than completing its accomplished, if, as yet, less than wholly characteristic first movement. Later, Schoenberg would actually orchestrate the Brahms – as reviewed this month on p77.
Recorded live in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Daniel Hope and his colleagues turn in well-paced readings of all three scores – their expressive intensity heightened by the almost gypsy-style vibrato favoured by Hope himself: highly appropriate to the riotous Hungarian finale of the Brahms and imparting an almost Klezmer-like feeling to the violin flourish near the end of the Mahler.
A pity that the recording has a slightly matt, constricted quality, as though some of the upper frequencies had been filtered out – compared with, say, the luminous spaciousness of the classic recording of the Brahms by Domus on Virgin. Surely Wu Han’s piano tone cannot have sounded quite so neutral, nor the strings quite so grainy in the hall itself? The inventive richness of the works and the sweep of the performances come over nonetheless. Bayan Northcott