Marc-André Hamelin (piano), Leopold String Trio
Hyperion is proud to present as its Record of the Month for November electrifying new performances of the three Brahms Piano Quartets: the celebrated Leopold String Trio is joined by Marc-Andé Hamelin.
The G minor quartet (1861—actually Brahms’s second foray into the genre) offers a heady mix of unbridled gypsy vigour cast within a musical architecture of symphonic mastery, characteristics not lost on Arnold Schoenberg who later made an orchestral arrangement. The following year saw the premiere of the A major quartet, Brahms himself at the piano in offering to the world a work which would be hugely popular during his lifetime before falling inexplicably to the periphery of the repertoire in recent times.
It was over a decade later, in 1873/4, that Brahms returned to his aborted C minor quartet: ‘Imagine a man who is just going to shoot himself, for there is nothing else to do’, wrote composer to publisher of this profoundly moving score. Much of the 1850s material is recast, and the resulting quartet is a tense masterpiece terminated by a cadence of perfunctory abruptness. Unsatisfied fatalism triumphs.
This generously filled set is concluded with the Op 117 Intermezzos for solo piano. One of four late groups of piano pieces Brahms composed with his beloved Clara Schumann very much in mind, these exquisite miniatures find an eloquent interpreter in Marc-André Hamelin.
The recorded sound here is astonishing, both in its immediacy and raw energy: every passionate nuance of Brahms’s Romantic vision is perfectly captured. Awards can be expected.
These recording of the Piano Quartets are also available as part of the specially priced box set The Complete Brahms Chamber Music: ‘In the last 25 years, Hyperion has managed to persuade some of the finest of chamber musicians to reveal their affection for Brahms in recordings of remarkably consistent quality … altogether life affirming music in life enhancing performances: surely one of the best buys of the year?’ (BBC Music Magazine).