The Brodsky Quartet present the first of two albums that will feature Brahms’s complete string quartets. This recording includes the String Quartet Op. 51 No. 2 with the Clarinet Quintet in B minor. The second string quartet was written alongside its contrasting companion, the String Quartet Op. 51 No. 1. They were both finally published in 1873 after being held back for years by a typically self-doubting Brahms until he had brought them to his own standards of perfection. Of the two, the second is warmer, more affirmative and relaxed, with few extremes of tempo or mood. It is a work that often looks backward, incorporating hints of baroque devices in his lyrical writing.
The Clarinet Quintet in B minor was the last expansive piece Brahms wrote, written after his first intended retirement from composition. It was the artistry of clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld that inspired him to return to composition and write his last four chamber works, including the quintet recorded here. It explores an atmosphere of elegy and nostalgia, producing a mood of autumnal resignation. The clarinet is rarely treated as a prima donna soloist, rather it is organically integrated into the work’s closely woven textures. Having performed this work in concert many times, the Brodsky Quartet and Michael Collins come together once again in this recording of the Brahms Quintet.