I have been doing a regular series of pieces of music that have moved me with their beauty. The first was Schubert’s Impromptus, the last one was about the rock band Genesis. In each case I had a long story to tell about the impact it had on my. In this case, I have no story tell other than the fact that I have always enjoyed it. It is Brahm’s String Sextet No 1.
When I first had an interest in classical music in my early 20s I always thought of chamber music as a scratchy sounding and inferior version of orchestral music. In time I came to enjoy it more and more. The separate voices are much more discernible that in orchestral music, I find. Also, because it is a lot cheaper to put on, it is possible to small intimate concerts in small halls (London’s Wigmore Hall was a favourite of mine) where it is possible for me to afford seats close to the performers. I began to enjoy chamber music live particularly as a result. I saw a wonderful performance of this Brahms piece at St John’s church in Smith Square, Westminster about 10 years ago.
My introduction to it was a recording of a piano transcription of the second movement made by Brahms himself, I am not aware that he did the same for the rest of the sextet, so presumably he was particularly attached to this movement. The recording I heard was by Emanuel Ax. I couldn’t find it on YouTube so here is a recording by Idel Biret, the Turkish pianist who is known for her interpretations of the Romantic repertoire and Brahms especially.
Here is a recording of the same piece with six stringed instruments.