BRAHMS: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2; String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 – Vladimir Bukac, viola/ Prazak Quartet – Praga Digitals

by | Jan 29, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2; String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 – Vladimir Bukac, viola/ Prazak Quartet – Praga Digitals Multichannel SACD PRD.DSD 250236, 61:23  (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Vibrant, vivid realizations of two Brahms chamber music staples, recorded 2006 in explosive surround sound in Domovina Studio, Prague. A gentle melancholy pervades the A Minor String Quartet (1873), whose melodic second violin part may have been an homage to Joseph Joachim. Michal Kanka’s deeply resonant cello makes points in the multichannel medium, both in arco and pizzicato passages. The contrapuntal development section achieves a wistful intensity, then yields to a scale passage of mild protest. Vaclav Remes’ first violin projects a sinewy sweetness. As in his F Minor Piano Quintet, Brahms follows Schubert’s example, composing a three-part lied for the Andante moderato. The marcato middle section, quite dramatic, conveys sincere urgency. The canon between violin and cello proves effective, as does the transition molto piano e dolce back to the intimate opening materials.

Typical of middle Brahms, the third movement is an intermezzo, Quasi menuetto–Allegretto vivace whose 2/4 animated episode is a theme and variations. The Prazak capture the movement’s soft elegiacism, and even the more agitated contrasting section enjoys a Mendelssohnian lightness. The last movement, in the manner of Haydn’s Hungarian and gypsy rondos, combines variations and constantly modulating ritornelli. Plastic, fluid lines, pungent attacks, and a lovely, viola-led (Josef Kluson) dancing energy suffuse this labyrinthine movement, rife with textural invention.

The symphonic G Major Quintet (1890) exploits Kanka’s cello, whose opening melody is spread over three octaves. Schubert again provides Brahms working models of procedure, with much of the meter in 9/8 resounding with lyrically sweet material. Complex, often dense, the textures explode with throbbing figures in the treble, and the cello booming out forte above the mass of sound. The wicked sonority of the audio reproduction is quite fertile, and Remes’ violin towers above a surging sea of Brahmsian chromatic harmony. The final resolution to G Major places a delectable icing on a creamy cake. The D Major Adagio opens with the guest-viola Vladimir Bukac over the pizzicato cello, and the movement achieves an austere beauty until the upper strings push for unbridled passion from the aged Brahms. The Prazak impart to the lied’s restrained opening a meditative resignation. The unannounced waltz that follows is marked Un poco allegretto, a G Minor intermezzo that moves from dreaminess to understated passion, the middle section a G Major episode with scales and murmurings in the lower strings. Bukac does the opening honors for the gypsy band antics of the Vivace, ma non troppo presto movement, which despite its advice not to become to animated, still manages a lovely csardas in surround sound. Lovely ensemble throughout, a fine addition to the Brahms disc catalogue.

— Gary Lemco

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