The music of Brahms held an important place in Sir John Barbirolli's repertoire and these recordings of the symphonies, made with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1966 and 1967, stand as one of the peaks of his discography. Barbirolli's relationship with this music is rooted in his time as an orchestral cellist, and these performances are notable for their rich, ripe sonorities and expansive warmth. This Japanese SACD reissue features the 2011's EMI Remaster.
After Bach, I think the compositional style of Johannes Brahms must be the most individually recognisable - at least in respect of his mature works; less so in the case of earlier compositions like the string sextets. However, these Piano Quartets are chock-full of typically Brahmsian melody and harmonic invention so that almost from the first bar, we readily are able to establish the composer's identity. Another reviewer has mentioned the density of Brahms's writing. Nowhere is this more evident than in these works which have absolutely no fat or padding on them; every note has a particular purpose within the structure of the whole. Nevertheless, in most of these quartets, Brahms does hint at the exposition of a subject which might become one of his grand melodic set-pieces but after only a passing nod at development, the idea fizzles out. But before we can sense any disappointment, we are caught up in his next scheme. This is so very characteristic of this great composer. The Beaux Arts Trio, ably augmented by Walter Trampler's viola, play to their customarily high standard with the recordings (from 1973) also being good.
The chamber works of Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) have long been seen as a window onto the German composer’s rigorous, intricate approach to composition and restrained yet Romantic style. This is true of his piano quartets; although he only composed three, in their individual characters and masterful control of musical material, they are an integral aspect of Brahms’s chamber output.
Playing the 1716 Booth Stradivari, violinist Arabella Steinbacher plays Johannes Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas, as well as the Scherzo he contributed to the FAE Sonata, with a prepossessing tonal command, captured and reproduced by PentaTone’s engineers, who have balanced both performers close up yet communicating a sense of the venue’s spaciousness (the recording took place in September 2000, at the Concertboerderij Valthermond). In the Vivace ma non troppo of Brahms’s First Violin Sonata, Steinbacher mixes strength and tenderness, exhibiting a wide dynamic range that the recorded sound has transmitted to the listeners. Robert Kulek’s introduction and accompanying figures at the second movement’s opening also reverberate warmly in the ambiance underneath Steinbacher’s sound, especially thick and honeyed in these passages (even at times recalling Mischa Elman’s fabled tone).
The sound of these Philips remasterings is very good for being almost fifty years old, and though the recording, true to its origins in the early 60's, is fairly closely mic'ed it is never too much. The various instrument sections are remarkably well defined.
Excellence abounds when it comes to the Brahms Piano Trios on disc, especially considering recent versions from Nicholas Angelich and the Capuçons (Virgin), the Florestan Trio (Hyperion), and the Abegg Trio (Tacet). To these references we now can add the Trio Wanderer, who has thoroughly digested, internalized, and transcended these scores' technical and musical challenges. So many marvelous details transpire over the course of the performances that it is difficult to know where to begin.