Brahms: String Sextets CD review – lithe recordings by a dream-team ensemble

Erica Jeal writes:

The Capuçon brothers, violinist Renaud and cellist Gautier, plus others including cellist Clemens Hagen make this lineup for Brahms’ two glorious string sextets something of a dream team.

These recordings were made at last year’s Aix-en-Provence Easter festival, but there’s little bar the odd swoopy slide to remind us that it’s not a carefully put together studio recording. The music sounds lithe and transparent – no easy task given the bottom-heavy ensemble: a pair each of violins, violas and cellos. The opening movement of the Sextet No 1 sets the tone: the phrasing really breathes, and the underlying motor is insistent but never hectoring. Melodies are relished, and yet there’s also a sense of restraint that comes into play most noticeably in the finale of No 1, which for a while sounds almost reticent. The payoff is that it means we get to savour the richness of the music without gorging on it.