Brahms Clarinet Quintet CD reviews summary

J. Brahms / Clarinet Quintet in B minor op. 115

TURTLE RECORDS 499018

Gerhard Pätzig, Klassic Heute (Germany), August 2000.

Die instrumentale Perfektion und der ideelle Gleichklang, mit dem hier alle Beteiligten zu Werke gehen, streifen bereits jene gefährliche Dimension eines interpretatorischen Absolutismus, der den Zuhörer zum Vorbeihören an den kompakten Werksubstanzen des Komponisten zu ermuntern scheint. Hier ist ein Höchstmaß an melodischem Schöngeist, spielerischer Dramatik, Dynamik, Präzision, Inspiration, streichquartett und Bläserkultur (im Klarinettenquintett) in Verbindung mit absoluter Transparenz bei der Wiedergabe komplizierter polyphoner Strukturen erreicht worden. Die für Brahms charakteristische Schreibweise sich entwickeinder thematischer Verflechtungen bis hin zu satzübergreifenden Gesantkunstwerken wird mit extremer Spielraffinesse ausgekostet. Dies macht das Zuhören nicht eben leicht. Arnold Schönberg These vom “Brahms dem Fortschrittlichen” wird mit Ohren greifbar. Die Aufnahmetechnik gibt ihr Bestes dazu und auch die graphisch extravagante, dafür nicht sonderlich informative Verpackung der Doppel-CD sorgen dafür, daß eine außergewönliche, “bibliophille” Besonderheit anzuzeigen ist.

The instrumental perfection and the homogeneity in sound serving a shared ideal whose performers take their work, graze that dangerous dimension of a performing absolutism that seems to incite the listener to not stopping in auditioning the compact substance of the piece. In this performance, the melodic ingeniousness, drama, dynamics, accuracy, inspiration, and chamber Music culture both in strings and in winds (clarinet quintet) reach his maximum expression, together with an absolute transparency when playing complex polyphonic structures. The performers take delight with extreme refinement in Brahms’ characteristic writing, where thematic framework is developed towards constituting a common reference that joins all movements in a total work of art. This doesn’t precisely makes easier the audition. Arnold Schönberg’s thesis about “Brahms the progressist” is made palpable in sound. The sound take contributes to reinforce this impression and, together with the presentation of the double CD of extravagant graphics –although not specially informative-, allows us to say that we are in front of an exceptional recording, a “bibliophile” rarity.

Artistic quality: (4:4) an exceptional recording, from both artistic and musical point of view.

Sound quality: (4:4) magnificent sound

General impression: (4:4) an extraordinary production

Peter Grahame Wolff, Seen and Heard (UK)

These are the warmest and most satisfying recorded performances of these well-loved and oft recorded masterworks, which I have heard in many a year. Estellés is a real find, he brings a suave and mellifluous tone and uncanny sense of ensemble, together with an unassuming air which was immediately evident in the recording session. No reservations, and this is definitely a five-star set.

Audio Notes, William Nichols, The Clarinet Magazine, USA. September 2003

Nominee for release of the year.

“… captures beautifully Brahms’ warm, lush sonorities, and is impressively balanced. The playing of these performers is again world class. This ensemble finds perfect pacing for the first movement, which is allowed to breathe, but yet is in a basically brisk tempo. The phrasing throughout isthe work is elastic and natural, and intonation is pure. These musicians are clearly in spiritual agreement, and deliver thoughtful and sensitive performances of this great music. This Brahms Clarinet Quintet is as good as any available and certainly joins a handful of favourite versions”.