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Brahms: Complete Chamber Music [11-CD Collector's Edition]


Release Date: 10/16/2012 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001725902  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Augustin DumayMaria-Joao PiresChristian FerrasPierre Barbizet,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String QuartetHagen String QuartetAmadeus String Quartet
Number of Discs: 11 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Brahms’s 24 major chamber-music works represent only a fraction of what he actually composed in the medium, but his strict self-discipline dictated that only the best survived – here complete, in performances by musicians of the highest standards and artistry.

R E V I E W S:

Violin Sonatas
I had not realized that there are already 19 versions of the three Brahms violin sonatas currently available. Many of these, of course, are extremely good. Nevertheless, Dumay and Pires easily deserve to be considered amongst the best, for their playing is consistently mature, stylistically homogeneous and, above all, refined.

They never waste a note of the music, and yet it is always allowed to
Read more unfurl naturally. A reflective eloquence at the opening of the G major Sonata sets the mood for the entire CD. Pires contributes many lovely delicate touches and there is great breadth to her phrasing when this is required. She reminds us that she should not be labelled purely as a Mozart player.

The first movement of the A major work may be slightly slack in its cohesiveness, but in the Andante tranquillo that follows one realizes that the duo sees Brahms above all else as a lyrical dreamer. Only in the D minor Sonata does one feel the darkly intense aspect of the composer's character and here the Presto agitato finale is everything it should be in terms of tempo and storminess...overall this is a release of considerable distinction."

-- J.M-C., Gramophone [3/1993]

Cello Sonatas
"The partnership of the wild, inspirational Russian cellist and the veteran Brahmsian, Serkin, on DG is a challenging one. It proves an outstanding success, with inspiration mutually enhanced, whether in the lyricism of Op. 38 or the heroic energy of Op. 99."

-- The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs & DVDs [2003/4 edition]

Piano Trios
In the Chinese cellist Jian Wang, the duo of Augustin Dumay and Maria-Joâo Pires have found themselves a true soul mate as this, their first record of piano trios together, engagingly shows. The B major Brahms Trio doesn't quite topple the Chungs' recording, still at the very top of my list; but it comes pretty near it. And in comparison with the recently reissued Grieg Trio performance, this has a greater tendency to linger, more rubato and more vibrato, with a bright, exultant glow as the violin joins the ground-swell of the great opening melody.

The Scherzo's trio, likewise, pulls back to form a slow, soupy centrepiece. Here I found the rubato a little mannered, with neither the instinctive lilt of, say, the Beaux Arts, nor the directness of the more plain-speaking Griegs. Everything, though, can be traded in for the sheer wonder of this Adagio. As slow as any on disc, it reveals the real empathy between Dumay and Wang in moments of great beauty (listen out particularly at 218" and 2'57") where the Milstein legacy in Dumay's playing is wonderfully apparent.

For the C major Trio, Dumay, Pires and Wang offer a generally broader and more spacious performance than the Griegs, and a suppleness of repartee in the slow movement's variations which matches their fluency of invention. The Scherzo's niggling is as compact and securely balanced as any, before the players glide, then stride, into the bright sunlight of the Trio.

-- H.F., Gramophone [5/1996]

String Quintets
The Hagen Quartet and Gérard Caussé also give highly enjoyable accounts of the two Quintets, and the DG engineers give them good recorded sound. No need to say more than that it can rank alongside the Raphael Ensemble on Hyperion.

-- The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs & DVDs [2003/4 edition]

Piano Quartets
"The three piano quartets...are now in the capable hands of Tamas Vasary and three principals of the BPO, Thomas Brandis, Wolfram Christ and Ottomar Borwitzky. These players have a thorough grasp of these unfailingly rich and inventive scores and Vasary in particular is splendidly characterful."

-- Gramophone [5/1983]

String Quartets, Piano Quintet
This is a special release in many ways. First, it celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Emerson Quartet’s founding. Second, it marks 20 years of the ensemble’s association with Deutsche Grammophon, a signal achievement in these troubled times for the classical music industry. Third, it is said to be the Emerson’s first ever recording of the Brahms quartets, a claim that still surprises me, though I’ve found nothing to contradict it. And fourth, it partners what is arguably the preeminent string quartet ensemble on the world stage today with pianist Leon Fleisher, whose recording of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra remains for me the unsurpassed touchstone in this work. Everything about this new release thus promises to make it legendary in its own time.


There is much about Brahms’s music that makes it forward-looking and exceptionally advanced for its time, but nothing more so than its approach to rhythm. To understand this, one need only look at Brahms’s near contemporary, Dvo?ák, whose music also poses rhythmic challenges. Yet in Dvo?ák’s case, however tricky his rhythmic patterns may be, they are “idiosyncratic,” by which I mean they derive from the natural inflections of the Czech tongue and from the native elements of Czech folk dance. There is nothing “natural,” however, about Brahms’s rhythmic constructions. With the possible exception of his Hungarian Dances , they are purely invented, and derive from no known folk traditions. The man must have lain awake nights inventing the most intricate, involved, and convoluted rhythmic interactions imaginable, patterns that are intentionally counterintuitive and therefore of extraordinary difficulty to execute. One would probably have to go back to the 14th- and 15th-century isorhythmic motets—in which Brahms had a keen interest—or forward to Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Webern to find rhythmic procedures of equal complexity.


While progressive elements in Brahms’s works also manifest themselves in areas other than rhythm, this one is singled out because it is particularly relevant to these performances. The Emerson exposes the inner workings of these scores with the magnifying power of a forensic microscope; yet there is not a moment that lacks for emotional engagement or the romantic passions and tensions that drive these works.


Begin your listening with the B? Quartet on disc 2. Right off the bat, Brahms skews the duple 6/8 beat by shifting the accents to the third and sixth eighth notes. Beginning in the second half of the eighth bar, we encounter the crosscurrent of three accented quarter notes set against the continuing six eighth-note duplets. There is nothing “natural” sounding in this or the dozens of other polyrhythmic patterns that permeate the piece. Yet the Emerson incises with such scalpel-like precision that every accent, every rest, and every staccato is heard without a drop of blood spilled between them. Far from bloodless, though, is the Emerson’s interpretive ability to tug at the heartstrings (listen to the Andante of the same B? Quartet), to call forth the Furies in the many passages of doomsday drama (listen to the first movement coda of the C-Minor Quartet), or to communicate the awful loneliness and heartache that come to the surface in so much of Brahms’s music (listen to the Romanze of the same C-Minor Quartet).


High on my favorites list for recordings of the quartets has long been the Sine Nomine Quartet on Claves (whose recent recordings of Beethoven’s “middle” quartets made my 2006 Want List). Yet much as I admire their Brahms, I’d have to say that the Emersons now supplant them as my top choice and recommendation.


Long ago, I concluded that some passages in music were so contrary to the way our brains are wired that they simply could not be executed exactly as written. One of those passages, I was convinced, begins at bar 176 in the third movement of Brahms’s F-Minor Piano Quintet. The whole movement is a ride on the wild side, but what happens at that point is a relentless rhythmic juggernaut of manic aberration. First violin and viola share one rhythmic pattern of 16th notes separated by 16th-note rests, while the second violin and cello share a different and conflicting pattern of eighths, 16ths, and 16th-note rests that occur in between the notes—i.e., in the rests—of the first violin and viola parts. And countermanding all of it is the piano part that is syncopated within measures and across bar lines, and that only intermittently coincides with the string parts. It is so loud and ferocious that many ensembles go for broke and charge their way through it, without the ear being able to detect the lack of exactitude. Most recordings further help to cover the general melee by reaching overload at this very point, so that nothing is heard with clarity.


The Emerson, Leon Fleisher, and DG change all of that, and in so doing prove wrong my theory of impossibility. You will hear this passage as you’ve never heard it before, exactly as Brahms wrote it. The only other recording I know that comes close is the 1966 version with the Guarneri Quartet and Artur Rubinstein, still highly recommended and now available on a budget RCA disc. But certainly this one passage is not the only reason to extol the virtues of the current performance. Fleisher seems to have a special affinity for Brahms, and partnering him with the Emerson was an inspired decision.


For sheer executant brilliance, interpretive insight, and fantastic recording, this set needs no aging to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in G major, Op. 78 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Augustin Dumay (Violin), Maria-Joao Pires (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878-1879; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1991 
Venue:  Gr Saal, Hochschule für Musik, Munich 
Length: 28 Minutes 52 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in A major, Op. 100 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Augustin Dumay (Violin), Maria-Joao Pires (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1991 
Venue:  Gr Saal, Hochschule für Musik, Munich 
Length: 20 Minutes 27 Secs. 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in D minor, Op. 108 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Augustin Dumay (Violin), Maria-Joao Pires (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886-1888; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1991 
Venue:  Gr Saal, Hochschule für Musik, Munich 
Length: 22 Minutes 17 Secs. 
4.
Scherzo for Violin and Piano in C minor, WoO 2 "FAE Sonata" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Christian Ferras (Violin), Pierre Barbizet (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Germany 
5.
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 in E minor, Op. 38 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello), Rudolf Serkin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862-1865; Austria 
6.
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 2 in F major, Op. 99 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Rudolf Serkin (Piano), Mstislav Rostropovich (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Austria 
7.
Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A minor, Op. 114 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Tamás Vásáry (Piano), Karl Leister (Clarinet), Ottomar Borwitzky (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Austria 
8.
Sonata for Clarinet/Viola and Piano no 2 in E flat major, Op. 120 no 2 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Karl Leister (Clarinet), Jörg Demus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
9.
Sonata for Clarinet/Viola and Piano no 1 in F minor, Op. 120 no 1 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Karl Leister (Clarinet), Jörg Demus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
10.
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello), Eugene Drucker (Violin), Philip Setzer (Violin),
David Shifrin (Clarinet), Lawrence Dutton (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1996 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 37 Minutes 51 Secs. 
11.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in B major, Op. 8 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Augustin Dumay (Violin), Jian Wang (Cello), Maria-Joao Pires (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854/1889; Germany 
12.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 2 in C major, Op. 87 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jian Wang (Cello), Augustin Dumay (Violin), Maria-Joao Pires (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1882; Austria 
13.
Quartet for Piano and Strings no 1 in G minor, Op. 25 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Tamás Vásáry (Piano), Wolfram Christ (Viola), Thomas Brandis (Violin),
Ottomar Borwitzky (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1861; Germany 
14.
Quartet for Piano and Strings no 2 in A major, Op. 26 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Thomas Brandis (Violin), Tamás Vásáry (Piano), Wolfram Christ (Viola),
Ottomar Borwitzky (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1861; Germany 
15.
Quartet for Piano and Strings no 3 in C minor, Op. 60 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Tamás Vásáry (Piano), Ottomar Borwitzky (Cello), Wolfram Christ (Viola),
Thomas Brandis (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1875; Austria 
16.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 3 in C minor, Op. 101 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Thomas Brandis (Violin), Ottomar Borwitzky (Cello), Tamás Vásáry (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Austria 
17.
Quartet for Strings no 1 in C minor, Op. 51 no 1 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Philip Setzer (Violin), David Finckel (Cello), Eugene Drucker (Violin),
Lawrence Dutton (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865-1873; Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/2007 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 30 Minutes 52 Secs. 
18.
Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51 no 2 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello), Eugene Drucker (Violin), Lawrence Dutton (Viola),
Philip Setzer (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865-1873; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/2005 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 32 Minutes 40 Secs. 
19.
Quartet for Strings no 3 in B flat major, Op. 67 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Lawrence Dutton (Viola), Philip Setzer (Violin), Eugene Drucker (Violin),
David Finckel (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/2005 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 33 Minutes 34 Secs. 
20.
Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Eugene Drucker (Violin), Philip Setzer (Violin), Lawrence Dutton (Viola),
David Finckel (Cello), Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1864; Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/2006 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 44 Minutes 34 Secs. 
21.
Quintet for Strings no 2 in G major, Op. 111 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hagen String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Mozarteum, Salzburg 
22.
Quintet for Strings no 1 in F major, Op. 88 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hagen String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Mozarteum, Salzburg 
23.
Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E flat major, Op. 40 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Norbert Hauptmann (French Horn), Thomas Brandis (Violin), Tamás Vásáry (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Austria 
24.
Sextet for Strings no 1 in B flat major, Op. 18 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  William Pleeth (Cello), Cecil Aronowitz (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadeus String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859-1860; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1966 
Venue:  UFA-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 33 Minutes 19 Secs. 
25.
Sextet for Strings no 2 in G major, Op. 36 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  William Pleeth (Cello), Cecil Aronowitz (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadeus String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864-1865; Austria 
Date of Recording: 03/1968 
Venue:  UFA-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 38 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 in G, Op.78: 1. Vivace ma non troppo
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 in G, Op.78: 2. Adagio
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 in G, Op.78: 3. Allegro molto moderato
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 in A, Op.100: 1. Allegro amabile
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 in A, Op.100: 2. Andante tranquillo - Vivace - Andante - Vivace di più - Andante vivace
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 in A, Op.100: 3. Allegretto grazioso (Quasi andante)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No 3 in D minor, Op.108: 1. Allegro
Sonata for Violin and Piano No 3 in D minor, Op.108: 2. Adagio
Sonata for Violin and Piano No 3 in D minor, Op.108: 3. Un poco presto e con sentimento
Sonata for Violin and Piano No 3 in D minor, Op.108: 4. Presto agitato
Scherzo in C minor for violin & piano (from the FAE-Sonata)
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.1 In E Minor, Op.38: 1. Allegro non troppo
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.1 In E Minor, Op.38: 2. Allegretto quasi minuetto
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.1 In E Minor, Op.38: 3. Allegro - Più presto
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.2 In F, Op.99: 1. Allegro vivace
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.2 In F, Op.99: 2. Adagio affettuoso
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.2 In F, Op.99: 3. Allegro passionato
Sonata For Cello And Piano No.2 In F, Op.99: 4. Allegro molto

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Serenity by Brahms November 20, 2012 By Allan Godfrey (Halifax, Nova Scotia) See All My Reviews "Chamber music hasn't been my favourite form, but these pieces are among the most pleasing in my admittedly limited CD collection (nearly all of which has come from Arkiv). They are Romanticism at its most peaceable and spiritual, and they deepen with repeated listenings." Report Abuse
 A winner November 18, 2012 By Anthony S. (Woodland Park,, NJ) See All My Reviews "The problem with collections like “the complete this or that by X or Y,” is that the performances are often uneven. Not so with "Brahms: Complete Chamber Music." The performances are uniformly excellent. I have never been able to warm up to the two Op. 51 quartets, which are merely very good works, but every other piece in Brahms’ chamber music catalog is a transcendent masterpiece. So if you like the symphonies or perhaps the choral music of Brahms but don’t know the chamber music—or if, like me, you already own two or three other performances of these works and want more—this is a good collection to buy." Report Abuse
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