Brahms artis


The Strad Issue: October 2017
Description: Far-reaching views over a wide Viennese landscape
Musicians: Artis Quartet Vienna, Peter Frankl (piano)
Composer: Brahms
Catalogue Number: NIMBUS NI 5944

At the beginning of the quintet there is thrilling full-colour playing, almost orchestral heft, as they give the fortissimo statement of the theme. Later, at the opening of the development, first violinist Peter Schuhmayer seems strangely lonely and vulnerable as he works his way up to a high G.The string sound is sweet, but it often has a wiry quality: this Brahms is made of stern stuff. The players perform the Andante as if they are exploring it, wondering what comes next, and what does come is always something wonderful. The scherzo has terrific drive, contrasted by voluptuous playing in the Trio, and the finale is tight and dramatic. This magnificent performance is grand, intimate, kaleidoscopic in colour and texture. In the first movement of the B flat major Quartet the abrupt switches between relaxed beauty and fist-clenching tension feel closer to Janáček than to Brahms’s Beethovenian models. But then the fiery rhetorical sections of the second movement seem like fiercely played French overtures. Both these works come across as fresh and vibrant, aided by the nicely balanced and detailed recording. TIM HOMFRAY