Menuhin, et al: Brahms Sextet No. 1, etc. - Spanish HMV ASDL 901
Jacket VG / LP EX / Spanish LP inside UK jacket
This handsome LP from His Master’s Voice (ASDL 901, Spanish pressing, UK jacket, white-silver label, stereo) features an exalted peformance of Brahms’s Sextet for Strings No. 1 in B-flat Major Op. 18, played here by some of the finest string players of the last century, a remarkable performance set down at EMI Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, in September 1963.
This is the Spanish pressing of the LP inside a UK jacket – please see the photos provided.
The players heard here are as follows:
Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Robert Masters, violin
Cecil Aronowitz, viola
Ernst Wallfisch, viola
Maurice Gendron, cello
Derek Simpson, cello
Of an EMI Classics Encore CD re-issue that included both of Brahms’s Sextets, the erudite critic Christopher Howell wrote for MusicWeb-International:
“The combination of the name of Brahms and string chamber music tends to conjure up austere, cerebral images, yet the first Sextet exploits the potential richness of the six players to create a glorious lyrical outpouring. That it creates this impression is due in no small measure to the performers. Apart from Menuhin himself, we have the then leader of the Bath Festival Orchestra (of which Menuhin was director at the time), Robert Masters, three leading British-based chamber musicians and, in Maurice Gendron, a soloist of international stature. These line-ups don’t always work, of course; these players are clearly united by their love of the music they are playing. It would be hard to describe adequately such wonderful music-making, and reductive to single out particular passages when the whole is so convincing. It seems that their familiarity with the work is such that they can be quite flexible over details without ever losing sight of the overall shape. Above all, they seem to alight upon each new moment as if they are discovering it for the first time. This is a treasurable performance indeed.
“Although the two Sextets were published three years apart, it is likely that they were written more or less contemporaneously. The second produces a remarkably spare texture considering six instruments are involved and there is a suspicion about it of "well, I’ve written one so I suppose I’d better write another". It is one of those Brahms works where a logical structural layout seems to prevail over communicative urgency, causing it to yield its secrets more slowly. Or is it the performers who make it seem so? For I also detect a feeling of "well, we’ve recorded no. 1 so we’d better record no. 2". Another time, even if the same place … It’s a highly professional job, from composer and performers alike, no doubt about it, and inspiration can’t always be caught on the wing.
“If another group can persuade me that the relative inspiration of these two works is the other way round I shall be delighted to say so. In the meantime, the quite wonderful playing of no. 1, in a warm, clear and well-balanced recording, is more than enough to make this an essential disc.”
Filling out the disc is Yehudi Menuhin and Hephzibah Menuhin’s equally captivating account of the Allegro from the F.-A.-E. Sonata, recorded at EMI Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, in December 1963.
Incidentally, the lovely cover art reproduces a detail from Rubens’ “Landscape with Rainbow”. There are superb liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket by Bernard Jacobson, printed in English only.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is VERY GOOD. There is wear and discoloration along the edges, as well as to the rear panel. However, there are no seamsplits, bends, owners’ markings, or other defects, and the album remains solid, bright, glossy, and highly attractive – overall, a very good collector's copy.
The condition of the LP itself is EXCELLENT. Though there is occasional light surface noise, in general the playback remains quite fine. However, those wanting a flawless or near-MINT copy are kindly advised to look elsewhere. Overall, this rates as an excellent collector's copy.