Brahms - String Sextets, Opp. 18 & 36; Theme and Variations for Piano (Label: Sony)
Johannes Brahms -Composer
Yo-Yo Ma -Cello
Sharon Robinson -Cello
Jaime Laredo - Viola
Michael Tree -Viola
Cho-Liang Lin- Violin
Issac Stern - Violin
Emanuel Ax – Piano

Brahms String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 18, was composed in 1860 while String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36, was composed during the years of 1864 – 1865. Both were published by Fritz Simrock.  Both works are scored for two violins, two violas and two celli.

The rendition of two of Brahms’ most beautiful String Sextets performed by the finest musicians in their slightly younger days.

The beauty of Brahms String Sextets was brilliantly packed in this two-disc set recording from 1989. This recording features the sextet of Isaac Stern and Cho-Liang Lin on violins, and Jaime Laredo and Michael Tree on violas, and Yo-Yo Ma and Sharon Robinson on cellos.

These two Brahms string sextets, Op. 18 and 26, are among the glories of Brahms's chamber music, though not necessarily the best. I remembered feeling pleasantly amazed at the very first listening of the first string sextet, as to how natural and unforceful the music sounds.

The warm, yet full of character playing from the opening bars of the first sextet, strikes the listener from the very opening bars of the first sextet. The intensity and momentum gathered itself gradually along the way, to finally bloom and arrive at a radiant close.

With bold and excellent shaping of the phrases of these sextets, the musicians here also play them with a sharp and profound musical understand of Brahmsian emotions, conveying a commitment of depth about their understanding of Brahms.

This recording has beautifully brought out the exuberance of the moving melodies of Brahms’ sextet, especially superb in texure and clarity.

Sextets are pretty rare in the genre and this is the one you have to experience.

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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