Brahms: String Quintets - WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Chamber Players

Brahms: String Quintets - WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Chamber Players

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186 663

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Brahms: String Quintets 1 & 2

WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Chamber Players:
Ye Wu & Andreea Florescu (violins)
Tomek Neugebauer & Mischa Pfeiffer (violas)
Susanne Eychmuller (cello)

Radiant, expansive, lyrical and utterly compelling, Brahms’s richly rewarding string quintets are exuberantly unleashed by the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Chamber Players in this album. These technically demanding works contain everything one could wish for from the mature Brahms: searching melodies woven into glowing, luxuriant textures, lyrical introspection with subdued sonorities, to youthful abandon in breathless, rhythmic passages.

“You have never before had such a beautiful work from me”, Brahms told his publisher about his Quintet No.1 in F major, Op. 88. This was no idle boast. The amiable and leisurely first movement with its warmly inviting opening melody is followed by a haunting second movement based on a sarabande with exquisite interplay between the instruments. In a nod to Beethoven, the energetic final movement is a masterly combination of fugue and sonata form but the result is pure Brahms.

Brahms originally intended his Quintet No.2 in G major, Op. 111 to be his final work but it is anything but a swansong. From the shimmering grandeur of the opening with an ardent, soaring theme from the cello, this work is a tour de force, full of buoyant high spirits quite unlike any of his other chamber works.

The WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne was formed in 1947. It has recorded extensively and is renowned for its interpretation of 20th century and contemporary music in addition to the standard classical repertoire. Its chief conductor is Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

The WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Chamber Players are all members of the orchestra as well as pursuing their own international careers: Ye Wu (violin, Leader), Andreea Florescu (violin), Tomek Neugebauer (viola), Mischa Pfeiffer (viola) and Susanne Eychmüller (cello).

The WDR Symphony Orchestra has, as part of the season, its own regular chamber music subscription series. The concerts take place in the WDR Radio Hall and all concerts are recorded and broadcast on the radio.

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PCM recording
Comments (14)

Comment by William Hecht - June 1, 2017 (1 of 14)

For reasons that escape me I've collected numerous recordings of the quartets and sextets, but never these absolutely wonderful quintets. Terrific playing and excellent recording make this a must have unless you're seriously allergic to chamber music. Bravo!

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 6, 2017 (2 of 14)

Thanks for telling us. It is somewhere in the data base but not listed under composer. How's the sound? On Pentatone's web site it can only be downloaded as WAV file. Under DSD it says: "Sorry, this file type is not available for download due to the recording quality".

Comment by William Hecht - June 6, 2017 (3 of 14)

Hi Adrian,

I posted my comment in the immediate glow of a second listen to some wonderful music I didn't even know existed. As a result I failed to mention that the engineering is by WDR personnel, not Pentatone's, and I may have been a bit too enthusiastic about the sound. I'm sure that the recording is pcm and guessing probably 24/48 which seems common for German radio broadcasts. The spatial definition is quite good and the characteristic sound of the instruments is truthful if not the ultimate in refinement (just occasionally the violins sound a tad bright, and no one's going to mistake this for dsd 256). On reflection and after two additional listening sessions I'd change the "excellent" of my original comment to "very good", but I'm still overjoyed to have found this disc.


Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 7, 2017 (4 of 14)

Thanks Bill for the information. The disc is available on eClassical in FLAC 16-bit Stereo only, whereas the back cover on Amazon suggests that it is multi-channel. Is yours multi? I’ve put the format question to Pentatone. Haven’t had an answer yet. On the site of is a downloadable FLAC 96/24 mc version of the two by the Mandelring Quartet Plus.

Comment by William Hecht - June 7, 2017 (5 of 14)

Yes, Adrian, it is multichannel.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 12, 2017 (6 of 14)

Hi Bill, I take it that you are a stereo listener, because this is what Pentatone answered to my query:

Dear Adrian,
This album is only available in stereo. Information on Amazon saying surround is inaccurate. I am sorry for the confusion. I hope that our team can correct this soon.
Kind regards,
Customer Support

Comment by fausto kantiano - June 12, 2017 (7 of 14)

I haven't heard these yet, but any of Brahms Quintets on SACD is good; remember that another recording of the piano quintet on SACD, by the Hagens & Gerstein, is soon out. B.'s string quintets are definitely one of my favourite works of classical music.

Comment by William Hecht - June 12, 2017 (8 of 14)

Hi Adrian,

No, I'm a dedicated mc guy. I'm listening to the disc now, and my rear speakers are putting out sound, my player display says multichannel, and the back cover of the disc displays the standard rectangle with the black stereo over the white multi-ch logo and the words "SA-CD Hybrid Multichannel". Your source at Pentatone must be referring to the download or she's simply mistaken. All the best,


Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 12, 2017 (9 of 14)

Glad to hear, Bill.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 22, 2017 (10 of 14)


Now what ! Do they know what they are doing? I told them that your copy was definitely surround and today I got this reply:

“Dear Adrian,

You are right: our mention on Amazon is incorrect. This version of the album is not surround. Almost all our recordings are surround so I automatically thought this was the case.
Our team is investigating if this recording can be brought out in surround but for now it’s not.

I apologize for the confusion.

We are very flattered that we have such dedicated listeners as you and Mr. William Hecht from Chicago. Thank you for it.

Keep in touch.

Kind regards,
Customer Support

Beats me!

Comment by William Hecht - June 24, 2017 (11 of 14)

Curiouser and curiouser! And yes, I did live in Chicago during grad school, FROM 1968 TO 1971!

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - June 29, 2017 (12 of 14)

I think Grozdana must be referring to the download.

Comment by fausto kantiano - June 30, 2017 (13 of 14)

This disc has now received a Diapason d'Or. What more recommendation does one need?

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 1, 2017 (14 of 14)

Fine and agreed as far as the musical content is concerned, but some may like a higher res than 48.