This Quartet was written in the late 19th century, a period when chamber music was moving out of the ‘chamber’ - the private homes and salons, and into the concert hall. The technical difficulty of the chamber music parts had grown beyond the capability of amateur musicians, and the music itself had begun to take on symphonic proportions.
Brahms was inspired by an orchestral sense of colour, breadth of expression and development. At first, this Quartet received mixed reviews, but over time it became more popular as the public came to recognise Brahms as a master of Romantic chamber music.
The second movement reflects Brahms’ complicated love for the pianist Clara Schumann. Clara performed in the première performance and as a rather perverse tribute to her, Brahms uses a version of her husband’s ‘Clara' motif, a five-note falling-rising melodic shape, as the main theme of this second movement. The Quartet ends with a vivacious, almost reckless gypsy rondo.
Recorded 19 August 2018 in St. Andrew's on The Terrace, Wellington by RNZ
Engineer: Darryl Stack