Brahms held off writing string quartets in his 20s: maybe he was nervous to touch the venerated form that Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven had all made their own. He would get there eventually, but first he turned his hand to the ultra-rich and gutsy textures of the string sextet – a standard quartet plus an extra cello and viola. A recent recording of both sextets fronted by the Capuçon brothers went for litheness and brilliance; this account, from Germany’s longstanding Mandelring Quartet with violist Roland Glassl and cellist Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt, is more august, more hefty, with stately tempos and broad, well-fed textures. It’s fine ensemble work, no doubt, but an autumnal sound for such youthful music, and to my taste it overdoes the gloop and solemnity. If you’re of the school of thought that Brahms is essentially all about melancholy and thwarted desire then this might be for you.
Brahms: String Sextets review – hefty, melancholic ensemble work
Kate Molleson is a Glasgow-based music critic. She studied performance in Montreal and musicology in London, where she specialised in 1930s experimental radio