Winning advocacy of a Clara Schumann pupil, though she’s no match for Brahms

Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective: Brahms and Contemporaries Vol.1

The Strad Issue: July 2024

Description: Winning advocacy of a Clara Schumann pupil, though she’s no match for Brahms

Musicians: Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective

Works: Brahms: Piano Quartet no.2 in A major. Le Beau: Piano Quartet in F minor

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN20297

Luise Adolpha Le Beau was born in 1850, moved in circles including Clara Schumann and Joseph Rheinberger, who both taught her, and Hans von Bülow, who supported her. She must also have known Mendelssohn’s chamber music, as there are a couple of themes in the outer movements of her F minor Piano Quartet that are dead ringers for passages from the finales of his two piano trios.

This is the first appearance on disc of the quartet: Le Beau’s style is confident and assured but with a tendency for development to become a little foursquare. Nevertheless, this is beautifully written for all four instruments. Apart from the chromatically inflected opening of the Adagio, the work doesn’t stray too much from its fundamental key centres, so you reach the end of a movement feeling as if you haven’t travelled very far, Le Beau’s trajectory basically being more melody-driven and linear than, say, Brahms.

Nevertheless, it’s eminently worth hearing, and the advocacy of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective presents it in the best possible light. The Brahms coupling is marginally less successful, with the Kaleidoscope happier in the more reflective music than in more strenuous passages: the extra degree of precision and passion brought to the work by the Leopold Trio and Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion) brings the work more vividly off the page. That said, the Le Beau is ample recommendation for this enticing project.