A quartet as the pièce de résistance on a symphonic program? In the case of the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, absolutely, because it has been orchestrated, masterfully, by none other than Arnold Schoenberg. “It is always very badly played,” Schoenberg said, speaking of the Brahms original, “as the better the pianist, the louder he plays, and one hears nothing of the strings.” In Schoenberg’s redaction, the piece also made a convert of the choreographer George Balanchine, who customarily thought chamber music unsuitable for his ballets (“too long, too many repeats, meant for small rooms”). Well, the Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet of Balanchine, in four spacious movements each with its own full cast, is one of the glories of the canon. On its own, the music is pretty glorious, too. —M.G.
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