Review on Brahms Recording with Stephen Hough

Fono Forum – Germany
By Marcus Stäbler

Oh, how simply magnificent it is, that warm, rich sound at the beginning of the Andante of the A minor Quartet by Brahms! It is miraculous how the four musicians here manage to paint - or rather bow - such a creamy legato, without laying it on even a smidgin too thick. This is romantic espressivo playing at tis very best. Without question, even in this thirty-third year of its existence, and after a few reshuffles, the Hungarian-American Takács Quartet hast lost none of its great qualities - although the recordings the ensemble has made since its move to Hyperion in 2005 have shown a slight tendency towards a rather more economical use of means: the vibrato-rich opulence has given way a little to a more slimlined, transparent tone, but without the four string-players giving up their noble, dark-timbred 'Takács sound.'

This is as audible in the Quartet Op. 51 No. 2 as it is in their fiery interpretation of the F minor Piano Quintet with Stephen Hough. Even more than his colleague András Schiff (in the likewise excellent 1990 Decca recording) the British pianist really dives into the string activity, letting himself be sucked into it. In this way, the piano and strings are fused into an even more homogeneous unit, making this masterpiece by Brahms sound both thrilling and full of nuances. And so this recording - though it arrives to enrich the catalogue so soon after the appearance of the end of last year of the brilliant CD with the Artemis Quartet and Leif Ove Andsnes - has now immediately become the new Number One recommendation. No problem for the chamber music fan - and Brahms himself would certainly have had no objection.

© 2017 Takács Quartet