Australian period-instrument Ironwood shines new light on two of the most popular chamber works of the Romantic era, revealing the passion, power and intimate beauty of Brahms as they perform on the instruments the composer knew and loved.
Ironwood’s interpretation of these popular works is the culmination of several years of cutting-edge research and painstaking experimentation. The results bring vividly to life the expressive practices of Brahms and his circle, which has been clearly documented in early recordings from the turn of the 20th century and contemporaneous written texts. Performing on gut-string instruments and a replica of Brahms’s much-favoured JB Streicher and Sons Viennese-action grand piano (parallel strung and with leather-coated hammers) dating from 1868, Brahms’s music is here imbued with the spirit, expressivity, rhythmic and temporal flexibility and soundscape that the composer undoubtedly expected to hear in performance.
The Op.25 Piano Quartet – the first of three that Brahms wrote – is book-ended by movements so large in soundscape, ideas and development as to feel symphonic. The third movement begins with a heart-on-sleeve song-like melody that is contrasted with a series of powerful themes which propel the music towards a dazzling finale, a tour de force that emulates the Hungarian gypsy style favoured by Haydn. The Op.34 Piano Quintet, Brahms’s most famous chamber work, combines Beethovenian explosiveness with the lyrical qualities of Schubert’s music, producing an unsurpassed level of musical expression.