Brahms Piano Quintet and Horn trio

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"This disc, well recorded in 1991, features two of Brahms' greatest chamber works and in very fine performances indeed. One of the clear advantages of recording this music with a well established chamber group, rather than using star performers brought together for the occasion, is that there is a natural empathy between the players and a resulting cohesion of interpretive approach. That is what we have here and it shows. Brahms wrote the horn trio specifically requesting that the natural 'forest horn' was to be used rather than the valved horn that was to finally replace the more limited range of notes possible on the natural horn. The valved horn was also more even in tone and, with the modern generation of instruments, considerably more powerful. All of these features are also easier to achieve than on the original natural horn. However, nowadays it is more normal to hear this music played on a modern valved horn regardless of Brahms' stated request and that is what we have here. Frank Lloyd is a remarkably fine player and this recording clearly demonstrates his ability to control the output of his instrument to match his two colleagues. This allows the trio to be properly balanced musically. Lloyd's tone is also far less 'beefy' than many and he avoids the rasping effects heard on other recordings. I suspect that the bore of the instrument is narrower than some models and this would help a great deal in these ways. Lloyd's tonguing technique is very fluent, almost on a par with that of a cornet player or trumpeter for instance. Years ago I had the pleasure of once playing in the same orchestra as Lloyd and well remember his contribution as being on a totally exalted level. Years before that Marcia Crayford played in the Kent youth orchestra in which I was a new recruit so this trio has some personal connections with my very distant past! The Piano Quintet gets another superb performance, once again benefiting from group cohesion honed over many years of working together. In particular, it is worth mentioning the sterling work done in this respect by their regular pianist, Ian Brown who also plays in the horn trio. This is an exciting performance which retains its chamber feel. This is in contrast to bigger concepts more suited to large concert halls. Views vary about the nature of this work with Clara Schumann describing it a 'charming' and others describing it as 'gloomy' or 'dark.' In this performance there is plenty of tension but no real evidence of either dark or gloomy music. I would describe it more as uplifting. Equally it is of more significance than merely 'charming.' This disc deserves serious consideration from anyone interested in the program. I would also suggest the version by the Florestan Trio which shares many of the same characteristics but includes more music in its double disc format. There is also a fine version of the horn trio played on the natural horn as Brahms specified on the Harmonia Mundi label with Faust, van der Zwart and Melnikov presenting a more mixed program."- I. Giles

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