BRAHMS, SCHUMANN Piano Quintets
Leif Ove Andsnes has an uncanny knack of revealing the inner truth of the music he plays without recourse to excessive gimmickry. He also has exquisite taste when it comes to choosing his chamber music collaborators, as this pairing of the two cornerstones of the piano quintet repertoire demonstrates.
Schumann’s Quintet has become the most famous of his chamber works, with its boundless energy and melodic generosity. Andsnes and the Artemis approach the work without the delirious fantasy of Martha Argerich’s nearly-all-star recording (EMI, 1/96R) but instead let the notes speak for themselves, never lingering too lovingly on mere details. It’s an approach that serves the work well, and an ideal instrumental balance helps illuminate the work’s compelling textures throughout.
It’s a similar story in the Brahms Quintet. Andsnes and the Artemis are alive to all the possibilities in the pregnant opening phrases of each movement and maintain the intensity of the impetuous passion implicit in this youthful music. The Brahms hasn’t fared as well on disc as the Schumann and this recording of it can certainly take its place among the finest. As for the Schumann, it’s up there; but you’ll have to wait a couple of issues for my Collection on the work’s 40-plus recordings to see if it’s the library choice.