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Brahms: Quintets, Op. 34 & 115 / Manasse, Nakamatsu, Tokyo Quartet

Brahms / Nakamatsu / Manasse
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 807558   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jon ManasseJon Nakamatsu
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRAHMS Clarinet Quintet. Piano Quintet Jon Manasse (cl); Jon Nakamatsu (pn); Tokyo Str Qrt HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807558 (SACD: 79:13)

The Tokyo String Quartet, founded in 1969, is disbanding in 2013 as a result of the retirements of longtime members Kikuei Ikeda and Kazuhide Isomura, the two remaining Japanese members of the Quartet. Isomura will have been the violist for the entire 44 years of the Quartet’s existence. This, then, is one of their final recordings. It’s a recording that brings honor to the Read more ensemble. The Quartet has, of course, recorded both these works before, the Clarinet Quintet with Richard Stoltzman and Joan Enric Lluna, the Piano Quintet with Barry Douglas. Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu, the two soloists here, collaborated five years ago on a treasurable account of Brahms’s two clarinet sonatas ( Fanfare 31:5). The present collaboration is a particularly happy one in the clarinet quintet, which Manasse plays with an exquisitely pure tone, and in which he does a wonderful job of blending into the ensemble when the music requires it, emerging from the string texture when his line is the primary one. As in the sonata recordings, he plays some of the most beautiful pianissimos you’ll ever hear on a clarinet. My only complaint is that he is perhaps a bit too reserved in the Più lento middle section of the Adagio . The recording is spacious, with ideal balances among instruments.

Jon Nakamatsu’s and the Tokyo’s piano quintet is an admirable, rather streamlined version, neither as weighty as the fairly recent Fleisher-Emerson Quartet version nor as passionate, even vehement, as the classic Pollini-Quartetto Italiano one; tempos are fairly quick throughout. Here I find the recorded sound problematic: It is warm and spacious but lacking in impact; the result is that the music loses immediacy and force. The effect is, if anything, more pronounced in multichannel mode. This SACD can be unhesitatingly recommended for the clarinet quintet, which is more beautiful than Jörg Widmann’s recent SACD version ( Fanfare 35:6), and ranks with the great versions by Karl Leister, Harold Wright, and David Shifrin; the piano quintet may be to some listeners’ taste but isn’t really forceful enough for mine. Exposition repeats are taken in both first movements, and of course the disc is CD-compatible. This one gets a spot in my permanent collection.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jon Manasse (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/2011 
Venue:  Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, Ind 
Length: 37 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jon Nakamatsu (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1864; Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/2011 
Venue:  Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, Ind 
Length: 40 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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