ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Robert Schumann - Piano Quintet / String Quartet - Takacs Quartet

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ROBERT SCHUMANN - PIANO QUINTET (Opus 44) & STRING QUARTET (Opus 41) - TAKACS QUARTET & MARC-ANDRE HAMELIN (Piano) - 034571176314 - Hyperion CDA67631

The main attraction on this new (Nov. 2009) release is the captivating Piano Quintet in E flat major Op. 44. Robert Schumann was first and foremost a pianist, therefore the piano part is front and centre in this work. This is not a string quartet with the addition of a piano. On the contrary, here the piano is the backbone of the piece, with the four string players in constant interaction with the keyboard. It is one of the best works of chamber music from the 19th century, and certainly contains some of Schumann's best writing. It is at times exhilarating and bold, with fast moving segments tossed around from instrument to instrument, but also contains a dramatic slow movement in the style of a march which is at times grim and at times dreamy.

Now who better to tackle a work like this than the award winning Takacs Quartet and the ever versatile Marc-André Hamelin. They perform this as if they had been playing together all their lives. The tempos are brisk, the interaction is seamless, the dynamics from one instrument to the next are perfectly judged, all as if each musician can read the other player's minds. They become one with the music and deliver a very impressive account of this chamber masterpiece. They exhibit so much energy and life in their playing, and add so many subtle touches to their interpretation, that they make listening to chamber music a thrilling experience. And of course, it goes without saying, that Hyperion has again captured all that music making with a very detailed recording that combines and projects the instruments very well, all within a natural soundstage.

These musicians should anticipate making room on their book shelves for more awards, because during the next round of judging and nominating, I believe this recording will sit at the top of many lists.

Jean-Yves Duperron