BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 1. Piano Quartet No. 11 • Jasminka Stancul (pn); Werner Hink (vn); Fritz Dolezal (vc); Hans Peter Ochsenhofer (va)1 • CAMERATA 28146 (72:39)
It’s been awhile since I’ve come across a release on this not-always-easy-to-come-by Japanese import label. In fact, I only recently discovered that a significant portion of the company’s catalog is available at arkivmusic.com. Two drawbacks, unfortunately, are that Camerata’s CDs are pricey,Read more and most of the printed material on the jewel-case back-plates and in the enclosed booklets is in Japanese. So one must scrutinize the program contents and credits carefully to know what one is getting.
What one is getting here are very fine performances of two of Brahms’s most popular chamber music works with piano, the early B-Major Piano Trio in its commonly heard revised version of 35 years later, and the G-Minor Piano Quartet, the first of the composer’s three works in this medium and the one with the famous Rondo alla zingarese last movement. The credits note that the piano Jasminka Stancul plays in the Trio is a Steinway, while in the Quartet her instrument is a Fazioli, Model F228.
Good as these performances are, there are so many excellent to exceptional recordings of these works one has to ask what makes yet another version of them so special that it justifies a purchase recommendation. In this case, I can say that especially in the Quartet, Stancul brings to the fore hidden fragments of Brahms’s motivic material, revealing details that tend to get lost in other readings. And the string-players, particularly violinist Werner Hink, have some unusual but highly effective takes on some of Brahms’s inverting triplet pedals and cross-rhythms set against the piano part. Listen, for example, to the way they handle the passage beginning at 12:07 near the end of the first movement of the Quartet. In fact, the more I listen to this ad hoc ensemble of mainly Austrian musicians, the more convinced I become that this really is a special recording worth acquiring.
Some may consider it regrettable that the sprawling first movement exposition repeats are not observed, but my own feelings about this, addressed in previous reviews, are mixed. The expositions in both of these works are quite lengthy and their development sections relatively short. Thus, repeating the exposition actually does more structural harm than good, since it has the effect of transforming an A-B-A movement (exposition-development-recapitulation) into a binary A-B movement in which the repeated exposition is the A section and a fused development-recapitulation becomes the B section. Repeats in works of this late date were, in my opinion, indicated pretty much for pro forma reasons; they work when expositions are short and development sections long—as in Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony—but here we have the opposite situation.
In any case, for those readers who regard this as a non-negotiable issue, you will be missing out not just on beautifully played performances but on readings of these familiar scores that offer some quite illuminating interpretive insights. This will join a whole shelf full of Brahms piano trios and piano quartets in my permanent collection. Very strongly recommended.
Fine Brahms chamber musicJanuary 16, 2014By Gail M. (Goleta, CA)See All My Reviews"The Brahms Op. 8 Piano Trio and Piano Quartet No. 1 make an excellent program, and these performances are wonderful, too. The beautiful instrumntal tone required in Brahms' rich melodic sections is realized, as well as the precise articulation needed in the rhythmic passages. This recording is close to the players but not confining, with clear modern sound free from distracting background noises. There are moments in the quartet that match the brooding moods and intricate rhythms of the trio, and the quartet ends with a vigorous finale in the Hungarian style. It's a pleasure to recommend this CD."Report Abuse