Some wonderfully colourful moments in these piano-based chamber works

Hermès Quartet: Brahms

Hermès Quartet: Brahms

The Strad Issue: November 2019
Description: Some wonderfully colourful moments in these piano-based chamber works
Musicians: Geoffroy Couteau (piano) Hermès Quartet
Works: BRAHMS Piano Quintet in F minor op.34; Klavierstücke op.76
Catalogue Number: LA DOLCE VOLTA LDV61 

This is part of an ongoing project by pianist Geoffroy Couteau. Three years ago he produced a set of Brahms’s complete piano music, and he is now recording all the chamber music involving piano. On this CD he has added the op.76 Klavierstücke from his earlier collection, presumably because there was nothing else to fill it up.

There is a purity in the Hermès’s playing, in contrast to the lush Romantic style of many. Early on they give a firm, almost heroic fortissimo statement of the opening theme, with a wonderful, melting change of character for the following piano melody. The gentle moments are among the most affecting, such as the quiet ascending first violin line at the start of the development and the interweaving strings in the poco sostenuto passage near the end.

In the second movement the strings pulse gently above Couteau’s expressive theme before opening out gloriously into their molto espressivo melody. The whole movement has a winning natural flow to it. In the Scherzo the quartet really flexes its muscles, launching into the first fortissimo with big-boned jubilation, and snapping splendidly through the dotted rhythms. The Finale opens out into a great paragraph of colour and vivid contrast. This is a fine performance, and the recording is clear and well balanced.