- Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20
- Octet for strings
For those listeners who don't already know the works on this disc, there are two huge surprises here. First, Felix Mendelssohn composed his "Octet" when he was a mere 16 years old. Second, Max Bruch composed his "Octet" when he was a mere 82 years old. This isn't to say that Mendelssohn's "Octet" with its singing melodies, its soaring themes, its strong rhythms and its ingenious textures doesn't sound like the high-spirited work of a teenage genius; it most certainly does. And this isn't to say that Bruch's "Octet" with its genial melodies, its sentimental harmonies, its luxurious forms and its masterful textures doesn't sound like the long-considered work of an aging epigone, it most surely does. This is to say, however, that anyone who didn't know that Mendelssohn's work was written in 1825 and Bruch's in 1920 might guess that both works were came from about the same time then from nearly a century apart. But surprised or not, anyone who listeners to this disc will no doubt be blown away by the quality of the performances. The Kodály Quartet and the Auer Quartet joined by bassist Zsolt Fejérvári in the Bruch form one seamless all-Hungarian super-group with a warm tone, a balanced ensemble and a sprightly sense of rhythm. Better yet, the conjoined groups seems to have as much affection for Bruch's intensely nostalgic work as they do for Mendelssohn's intensely energetic work, and both their performances are equally convincing. While it might be too much to say that anyone who loves Mendelssohn's "Octet" will love Bruch's "Octet" -- there is, after all, a world of difference between a genius and an epigone -- anyone who loves great chamber music playing may quickly develop a distinct fondness for these performances. Naxos' sound is clear but not quite crisp and deep but not quite full.