Biddulph 80212-2, 65:25 (Distrib. Albany) *****:
The C Minor Piano Quartet performance from June 1952 derives from CBS inscriptions of the Casals Festival in Prades. The superstar ensemble has perennial favorite Myra Hess (1890-1965) at the keyboard, in one of her more febrile, passionate moods. How did Brahms characterize this 1875 piece–as a suicidal impulse directly from Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Its emotional ties to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony reveal themselves early, and we have to wait for the E Major Andante to savor the joys of Paul Tortelier’s (1914-1990) soulful cello. Milton Katims has his viola moments in the Scherzo. Szigeti and Hess each contribute many musical sparks to a demonized, urgent performance of one of the darkest of chamber works from the pen of Johannes Brahms, whose original ideas spawned in the mid 1850s, following the abortive suicide attempt of Robert Schumann. Sterling transfers by David Hermann make me salivate to think the rest of the Szigeti Brahms sonatas may be imminent, along with the precious Prades and Perpignan Festival material from CBS.