Tuesday, January 5, 2010

johannes brahms | string quintets

hard to imagine brahms writing these quintets in the late 19th century, his nostrils surely in a perpetual flair over the pungent waft of wagner floating from the works so many of the new composers, his romanticized classical ideal more and more an anachronism. on the other hand, there couldn't have been anything to convince brahms that revolutionary change was in order, for his work continued to find worlds within worlds within forms which some would have assumed long-since infertile.... some wished to humanize classical music by extending its harmonic possibilities; brahms's humanization was more subtle, if less direct: he composed to the high ideal via the personal, rather than vice versa. that is to say, he trusted the human emotional experience to do justice to the moral, the divine, the whatever. accordingly, the music feels vulnerable, even in its stately composure. the string quintets, as much as any bit of brahms, exemplify this character in his work, and the performance by the raphael ensemble more than gets the drift. the performance is so fresh it feels like some fresh fucking fruits and vegetables. as noted by other reviewers, the sound on the album is quite "present", which means it's probably a good idea to play this one over speakers if you can (that way you can enjoy it as "brightness" rather than "pokiness"). hear.

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