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Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 1/Academic Festival Overture

Würth Philharmonic/Claudio Vandelli (Challenge Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Brahms arr. Schönberg
Piano Quartet No. 1, Op. 25; Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Würth Philharmonic/Claudio Vandelli
Challenge Classics CC72831   52.34 mins


Schoenbergs profound sense of historical context was both a blessing and a curse. With the dying embers of Romanticism seemingly emitting a twilight glow, he felt compelled to find a way to relieve the increasing pressure under which the tonal system was buckling. However, rather than break free entirely, his ultimate solution was to devise an alternative system, intended to provide a sense of logical continuity with the German tradition of which he felt such a vital part. In the meantime Brahms increasingly appeared a beacon of musical sanity, and in 1937 Schoenberg decided to orchestrate his G minor Piano Quartet to clarify textures that in the original tend to get swamped by over-zealous pianists.

Conductors often become strangely inhibited when conducting Schoenberg’s masterly rethink, keen, no doubt, to point up its myriad instrumental subtleties. Claudio Vandelli goes in the opposite direction, however, allowing the music its full head as though it were a freshly-discovered symphony, culminating in a no-holds-barred coda of unquenchable energy.

This spills over into the Academic Festival Overture, which emerges free of stifling rigidity. Some may prefer a more measured, considered approach, yet Brahms’s music has rarely felt so bracingly alive.

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Julian Haylock