Brahms quartet ironwood



Strad Issue: June 2017
Everything’s right in these exquisitely played period performances
Musicians: Ironwood: Robin Wilson, Rachael Beesley (violins), Nicole Forsyth (viola), Daniel Yeadon (cello), Neal Peres Da Costa (piano)
Composer: Brahms
Catalogue Number: ABC CLASSICS 481 4686

This beautiful recording by Australian ensemble Ironwood must, by rights, receive the highest praise for its thoroughly research-derived approach. To date, these must be the most convincing applications of Romantic period practices I have heard in the commercial domain: frequent portamentos (even if they seem a little fast and light in the first movement of the piano quartet), sparing vibrato which nonetheless results in a warm-hued sound on gut strings, and the fascinatingly warm and malleable tone of the replica Streicher pianoforte from 1868.

Listeners will hear immediately the informality of ensemble, the frequent uses of piano arpeggiation, and the tempo dislocation, but the ‘rightness’ of all of these gestures dispels any present-day criticism of crude cliché (although to be fair, with a modernist legacy stretching at least as far back as anyone living can remember, such traits are now in themselves rendered fascinatingly unfamiliar). Highlights for me are the rumbustious finale to the piano quartet, and the warmly passionate yet restrained quintet first movement. The technical standard of the playing is exemplary, and the recording itself made to a high standard, with just sufficient reverberation and warmth, without loss of detail. This recording gives much hope that the prejudice against 19th-century performing practices might yet be dispensed with. I recommend it with enthusiasm. DAVID MILSOM