"The vigorous virtuosity of the Alban Berg Quartet's account of the Death and the Maiden Quartet vividly portrays Schubert's struggle against his fate, but the Brandis here offer an immensely powerful alternative. The first movement's startlingly violent central motif is made more intense by an agogic accent on the long note preceding the triplet, and the high emotional temperature is maintained by a wealth of textural detail and the inclusion of the exposition repeat. In the second movement, the Brandis's miraculous resolution of the rhythmically climactic third variation into the radiant major fourth one, culminates in the Scherzo's and finale's triumphant mood."
Nicholas A. Rast, Gramophone
The performance of the Brandis Quartet is expressive, unanimous and relatively fast. In the first movement, they focus more on the beauty than on the drama. So their performance is more even and less torn and nervous than, for example, that of Quartetto Italiano on Philips. The first violin of Thomas Brandis produces assured and beautiful sound. In the slow movement they assume quite a fast tempo, more Allegretto than Andante. This gives the music a different character; it becomes “thicker”, with more action than reflection. With Quartetto Italiano, the music breathes with juvenile timidity; the Brandis are more assertive and add a dancing lilt. Menuetto starts in a hushed voice and is well balanced. This movement certainly benefits from certain remoteness. The Brandis excellently convey its character, painting it in cold grayish-blue tones. The trio is successfully contrasted. The playing of the finale is light and elegant, with some filigree finger-work. Again, the cooler notes are well emphasized.
This is music with strong personality that exists independently of the performers – and yet it may come out wearing quite different faces. This performance by the Brandis Quartett is sonorous, with resonant acoustics, and the music gathers grandeur – like a gray gothic cathedral. In the first movement the Brandis play with pressure but not roughness, and express well the music’s mortal dismay. Their development section is especially multi-layered. The musicians give an excellent performance of the slow movement. The first violin is poignant and earnest. They are energetic and powerful in the Scherzo and the finale.
These are technically impeccable performances, dedicated and concentrated.
Oleg Ledeniov Musicweb-international.com