RCA Living Stereo LSC-2330
Brahms: Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60
Szymon Goldberg, violin
William Primrose, viola
Nikolai Graudan, cello
Victor Babin, piano
Pressing: US, Indianapolis, shaded dog
Date first published: 1964
Price range: $29-155 (mean $56) on popsike.com
Comments: If you are searching for a recording of Brahms' third Piano Quartet that essentially puts you at home in your listening room with the ensemble before you, look no further. I've not always found the chamber recordings made for RCA to be particularly extraordinary from the sonic standpoint, but this one is worth mentioning. The Festival Quartet made a handful of recordings for RCA, including all three Brahms' Piano Quartets (reviews of the other two LSC-2473, LSC-2517 upcoming), the Faure Piano Quartet (LSC-2735, late RCA but not Dynagroove), and the Schubert Trout Quintet (LSC-2147, one of the rarest RCAs). There is also a compilation album with the Beethoven and Schumann Piano Quartets as well (LSC-6068). Without restating what I've quoted from Valin's book below, I will say that the performance is top notch and the sound, while not the finest chamber recording I've heard on vinyl, very nicely reproduces the artists' musical interplay. Instrumental separation is distinct, yielding clear, well-imaged strings across the soundstage and the piano slightly in the rear, all well-balanced. The acoustic is a little on the drier side, which makes it sound more like the artists are in your room rather than in a performance hall -- more intimate.
Other of my favorite performances of this work include those of Rubinstein and the Guarneri Quartet (RCA) and the Beaux Arts Trio with Walter Trampler on viola (Philips).
Here's what Valin has to say about this in the RCA Bible:
"Brahms was in extremis when he began work on this most passionate of his quartets, hopelessly in love with Clara Schumann, the wife of Robert Schumann, Brahms' great friend and champion. Although he rewrote most of the piece twelve years later, under different and less extreme circumstances, he left the Andante - his declaration of love for Clara - untouched, and it remains, in spite of the torment expressed elsewhere in this great work, profoundly touching. Sonically this is very near to the best, which is to say, most realistic, sounding chamber recording RCA made. Phenomenal inner detail on strings, superb balance and lifelike presence on all instruments (the piano is wonderfully well integrated into the grouping). Plus the ensemble here, and this is true of all the Festival Quartet recordings, is simply terrific. One of the great RCA's." Rating: Excellent.