Brahms: String Quintets – No 1 in F major, Op 88; No 2 in G major, Op 111

Reviewed on Mon 16 Jan, 2017

The Second Quintet reverts to the customary four movements, and once again these skilled artists do full justice to this glorious music's towering craftsmanship, full-throated ardour and tender heartache.

Having already given us fine surveys of all three of Brahms's string quartets (each one coupled with a rarity by Gernsheim, Dessoff and Herzogenberg) and his complete chamber music with clarinet, the Mandelring Quartet team up with violist and former member, Roland Glassl, for comparably sympathetic renderings of both of the German master's string quintets. With playing that is consistently mellifluous, fine-grained and scrupulously observant, they plot a deft course through the First Quintet from 1882. A stylistically challenging and emotionally complex journey it comprises, too, from the generous lyricism of the opening Allegro non troppo ma con brio, via the many deliciously subtle harmonic shifts that define the slow movement-cum-scherzo centrepiece, to the positively Beethovenian bustle and grit of the finale. The Second Quintet (completed eight years later, and which Brahms had originally intended to be his swansong) reverts to the customary four movements, and once again these skilled artists do full justice to this glorious music's towering craftsmanship, full-throated ardour and tender heartache (the tumbling fantasy and orchestral sweep of the exhilarating first movement are marvellously conveyed here). Vivid sound, truthful balance, and a firm recommendation.
–Andrew Achenbach