Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Johannes Brahms, Budapest String Quartet, Rudolf Serkin|
Brahms - Three String Quartets Op. 51
IMPORT-GBR 2 CD
IMPORT-GBR 2 CD
Searingly Intense Brahms from the BSQ and Serkin
Johannes Climacus | Beverly, Massachusetts | 02/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was delighted to see these classic performances reissued, for they belong at or near the top of a very crowded field. These are stereo recordings from late in the Budapest String Quartet's career; the lineup includes J. Roisman /A. Schneider / B. Kroyt / M.Schneider. As with this ensemble's early stereo Beethoven cycle (roughly contemporaneous), there are occasional blemishes in matters of ensemble and intonation; these four musicians may have been past their prime technically, though by no means artistically. Indeed, in the three Quartets the BSQ show a depth of understanding that can only come from decades of playing and pondering these difficult works. Their earlier set, recorded with a slightly different lineup in the 1940's, by no means eclipses their later efforts; if anything, the stereo renditions prove more trenchant interpretively, if at times fallible technically.
The other Amazon.com reviewer of this album prefers the BSQ's earlier recording of the piano quintet, with Szell, also from the 1940's. I have not heard it (though I may order a copy, so intriguing is the prospect of this combination of artists in Brahms), but I can scarcely imagine a finer account than the stereo version with Serkin. To my ears, Serkin's classical sympathies, and somewhat laconic delivery, are well attuned to a work which can sound squally when played in an overheated manner. The BSQ and Serkin manage to convey searing intensity while never losing control of structure and dramatic timing (which can happen when Brahms is played with unrelieved Sturm und Drang).
The sound has been given a new clarity of focus in this remastering, without any loss of bloom on the strings. Indeed, none the LP incarnations of these performances I have heard convey as much amplitude and richness. Though Serkin's tone inclines, as usual, toward brittleness, the remastering has given a new firmness to the piano in every register.
Clearly, then, this economically priced double album should be considered by listeners who enjoy performances of enduring historical value, and even those who are unfamiliar with the repertoire. Indeed, despite the age of the recording I could endorse this as a "basic library selection" at least for the three String Quartets. I have other preferences for the Piano Quintet (Eschenbach/Amadeus, whose virtues are largely unsung, and Rubinstein/Guarnieri are particular favorites of mine), but Serkin/BSQ will not disappoint even the most discerning collector."
Budapest great, Serkin so-so
Phillip Wagner | Ypsilanti, MI United States | 09/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The string quartet performances are wonderful. The quintet is played with flawless technique by all performers, however Rudolf Serkin sounds somewhat stogy, or lazy in the quick passages, especially in the 3rd movement. The Budapest String Quartet recorded this same quintet about 20 years earlier with George Szell at the piano. Although recording technology of the 1940's was far below that of the 1960's, the musical quality of Szell's playing far outdoes that of Serkin's. Brahms / Schubert : Szell / Budapest Quartet."
A note about the sound--and a trivia question
Paul S. | Oakland, California | 10/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I gladly defer to the previous reviewer about this excellent set of performances, I beg to differ about the sound quality. Sony's remastering (said to deploy a couple of proprietary technologies) definitely elevates the sound quality far, far above what we'd expect from a Columbia recording (especially of Serkin, whose legacy owes Columbia no favors). But to my ear the treble has an annoying harshness. Certainly the relatively dry acoustic will not garner the affection of those looking for a lush, plush sound. It's not serious enough for me to lop off a star, but the sound is not all THAT great.
Do the faint vocal sounds in the background of the scherzo come from Serkin? Consumer Reports, praising the 1968 LP, griped about his humming along, but that featured Schumann's quintet instead of Brahms'. It's trivial enough to be more of a curiosity than an annoyance."