- String Quintet No. 2 in E flat major
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The three works on this album were all written by Max Bruch at the end of his life, after World War I, when he was more than 80 years old. They were not published until after his death in 1920, and then they were forgotten due to Nazi bans on Bruch's music because of his supposed Jewish ancestry, wartime manuscript loss, and the self-serving actions of modernist gatekeepers. In the world they depict, the Great War might as well never have happened, but perhaps that is part of the point. At any rate, they are remarkably accomplished and assured pieces for an octogenarian, reminiscent by turns of Brahms, Schubert, and occasionally Richard Strauss, with some of the vigorous folk influences that make Bruch's major concertos so popular. To these ears the strongest of the three is the "String Octet in B flat major, Op. posth.", one of the last things Bruch wrote. The ensemble is four violins, two violas, a cello, and a double bass, making possible everything from quartet-like sounds with the dominant first violin that characterizes most of these pieces, to almost orchestral textures. The Nash Ensemble, with first violinist Stephanie Gonley, handle the gradations beautifully and let the considerable pure lyricism of the music come through unimpeded. Sample the "Allegro moderato" first movement for the full effect, although the same subtlety is at work through all three of these lovely late-life works. A fine addition to any chamber music library.