The expected coupling for the Piano Quintet would have been the Piano Quartet, Op. 47, but here the Takács Quartet offers instead the third of Schumann’s three string quartets. At the very least, this choice gives the listener a better sense for the remarkable variety of what Schumann turned out in 1842, a year of manic attention to chamber music. The group’s sound is not as homogeneous as some—one hears four individual musicians with more willingness to stand out, particularly so the newer members of the group, first violinist Edward Dusinberre and violist Geraldine Walther. But it’s a sound well suited to Schumann’s style, which emphasizes the expressive contribution of each individual strand.
Still, one waits to be carried away until the piano quintet, where Hamelin provides the spark that ignites an exceptional performance (the ecstasy of the finale’s coda is something special indeed). Both works were recorded at St. George’s, Brandon Hill, where Hamelin has made a number of outstanding recordings for Hyperion. For the quintet the group is opened up to accommodate the piano and more closely miked, which brings us a couple steps closer, almost onto the stage with the performers.