Classical CD Reviews

BRAHMS: Complete String Sextets, Piano Quartets, String Quintets, Clarinet Trio – The Nash Ensemble – Onyx 4093 (4 CDs)

One of the best Brahms collections to have come my way in a long time.

Published on January 12, 2013

BRAHMS: Complete String Sextets, Piano Quartets, String Quintets, Clarinet Trio – The Nash Ensemble – Onyx 4093 (4 CDs)

BRAHMS: String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18; String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36; Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25; Piano Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 26; Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60; String Quintet No. 1 in F, Op. 88; String Quintet No. 2 in G, Op. 111; Clarinet Trio in A Minor, Op. 114 – The Nash Ensemble – Onyx 4093 (4 CDs), 4:40:48 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

I think I can make relatively short work of this release, a four-disc collection of the Nash Ensemble’s Brahms chamber music. Gary Lemco reviewed the only two discs Audiophile Audition has covered from this set, the Piano Quartets Ops. 25 and 60which he considered the “probably the best Brahms chamber music disc I will hear all year.” And the two String Sextets also received close to rave reviews. Those were the first two discs recorded in 2007 and 2006 respectively, while the String Quintets were set down in 2008 and the last Piano Quartet and Clarinet Trio occurred in 2009. I don’t know why we missed the last two releases but it is certainly an exciting proposition to have them all collected together here. Despite the three different locations used the sound is remarkably consistent from disc to disc, and I think I can easily transfer Lemco’s gregarious assessment of the first two discs to the last two. This is easily some of the most passionate, burnished, and burley Brahms to come my way in some time, each piece competing with the others in terms of quality of performance, and Richard Hosford’s odd-man-out woodwind takes its place among the finest recordings of the Clarinet Trio—and there are many superb ones available. This collection can easily serve as the only recordings of these works if so desired, they are that fine. I look forward to freeing up some of the space on my shelves…

—Steven Ritter




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