The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Some fine performances let down by a piano-dominated balance
Musicians: Primrose Piano Quartet
Composer: Fauré & Brahms

This CD was recorded using a Blüthner piano chosen by Brahms in 1896 for a young British pianist, Margarita Hanson, who had met him while she was studying music in Germany. John Thwaites, the pianist here, enthuses in the booklet notes about its personality and musicality, and its ability to blend with strings. Blend, perhaps, but the recording here favours it to the extent that too often the strings sound small and distant, particularly when one of them is alone with the piano.

In the first movement of the Fauré, the strings seem to lurk at the back, while the quicksilver second movement sounds like a little piano concerto with a string accompaniment. Which is a shame, because there are lots of good things going on. The Adagio third movement recovers from a not-quite-unison opening to blossom into a beautiful silky elegy.

The strings hold their own better in the big-boned Brahms Quartet, with its assertive, passionate paragraphs. There is fine, lyrical playing in the Andante con moto third movement, with its long, undulating lines, and tremendous fire and energy in the Rondo alla Zingarese finale.