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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, May 2011

Like so many musical geniuses, German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was a child prodigy, producing his famous Octet in E flat major, Op. 20, at the age of sixteen. The music is filled with the youthful high spirits we would expect, yet it’s also got the captivating magic and maturity so eloquently and zestfully displayed in his overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which he wrote around the same time in 1825.

Coupled with the Mendelssohn Octet we find the Octet in B flat major by German composer and conductor Max Bruch (1838–1920), a work Bruch composed in the year of his death, 1920. Bruch’s music was something of a throwback to the traditional music of the nineteenth century, so it is no surprise that his Octet should owe so much to Mendelssohn’s music of almost a hundred years earlier. Both pieces are romantic, flowery, exuberant, flamboyant, lyrical, with moments of serenity and repose amidst dashing élan. It’s interesting to note, too, that Bruch’s music was pretty much out of fashion by the early twentieth century, yet today it is largely his music and that of other eighteenth and nineteenth-century composers that make up most of the basic repertoire of classical record albums and classical concert programming. Perhaps good tunes never go out of style.

I enjoyed this disc a lot, as played by the combined forces of the renowned Kodaly Quartet and the more-recently formed Auer Quartet. For the paltry price one pays for the Naxos bargain disc, it seems like a bargain.

…the quicker tempos of the Kodaly-Auer ensemble would seem to go hand in glove with Mendelssohn’s youthful enthusiasm. And finding the Mendelssohn Octet combined on the same disc with the Bruch Octet, one could hardly go wrong.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Bruch’s ripely romantic late Octet (scored for 4 violins, 2 violas, cello and double bass)…has a genuine romantic sweep. Although the structure of the first movement seems partly modelled on Mendelssohn, there is no Scherzo. Instead, after a lovely song-like Adagio, with an Andante middle section (the highlight of the work), the finale has much of Mendelssohn’s infectious exuberance. It is played with persuasive warmth and conviction by the combined Kodály and Auer Quartets and is a thoroughly worthwhile addiction to the Bruch discography.

American Record Guide, October 2006

Max Bruch was 82 when he wrote his Octet, and Felix Mendelssohn was 16 when he wrote his. Bruch had a career as a conductor, a composer, and a teacher, but even after living the equivalent of two of Mendelssohn's lifetimes (Mendelssohn died at 38) he could not write an Octet to compare with Mendelssohn's. It is rather poignant to think about Bruch in 1920, at the end of his life, still writing in the style of the 1820s and still trying to write as well as Mendelssohn (who was himself trying to write as well as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Handel). These musicians give both pieces their best collective shot, and the resulting reading of the Mendelssohn is extremely fine: resonant, articulate, clear, expressive, and full of all kinds of contrasts in texture. It is well recorded to pick up both the individual voices and the blend of voices. They do their best with the Bruch, but even the finest playing of the piece is not enough to raise it to the level of excellence that Mendelssohn reached at the tender age of 16.

Victor Carr, Jr., May 2006

The Kodály and Auer Quartets join forces to produce these exceptionally enjoyable performances of the Mendelssohn and Bruch Octets (the latter joined by Zsolt Fejérvári on the double bass). The combined ensembles sound of uniform mind and spirit in both works, playing with a sense of joyous abandon in the Mendelssohn and sinewy vigor in the Bruch. The rich string tone lends an ingratiating warmth to the collective sound, while the players' impeccable musicianship assures that every note registers, even in the many rapid ostinatos that comprise much of the Mendelsson. The Kodály and Auer play from the heart as well as the head, certainly so in their delicate phrasing in the tender slow movements. Naxos' close-perspective recording keeps the performers at a comfortable distance while providing ample space for the string timbres to naturally resonate. This one's an easy recommendation: beautiful, stimulating music, marvelous performances, and excellent recording all at the Naxos price. What more could you ask for?

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