S0386. LÉNER QUARTET, w.Dennis & Aubrey Brain: Divertimento in D, K.334 (Mozart), recorded 1939; w.Draper, Hinchliff & Hobday: Septet, Op.20 (Beethoven), recorded 1930. Transfers by Suga. [Such heavenly portamenti here!!!] (Japan) Opus Kura 2078. - 4582158680786
“The Léner Quartet is one of the most important chamber groups in twentieth century history. They made the first complete recording of Beethoven’s string quartets, and they had a career of significance from their founding in Budapest in 1918 until the Second World War brought the original group to an end….They made other important recordings as well as the Beethoven cycle, including a classic of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with Charles Draper, and the Debussy and Ravel Quartets. They were very highly regarded in Europe and in London. In France, Ravel heard them and encouraged them, coaching them in his Quartet.
The recordings here...represent a style of string playing that has long vanished. The Léner members use considerably greater rubato than is the norm today, although they never lose the shape of the music. They also employ a greater use of portamento and a wider vibrato than is typically heard today. Some may find it cloying, others (myself included) will find it endearing. What is clear in these recordings is that we have a quartet in which all the members listen carefully to each other and reflect each other’s inflections and match each other’s sound palettes perfectly. These are performances of great beauty, performances with a touching ‘old world’ quality....Olga Loeser-Lebert was a German pianist, wife of an American art collector Charles Loeser, and the regular partner of the Léner Quartet. In addition to the Dvořák, she recorded the Brahms and Schumann piano quintets with them.
One of the trademarks of the Léner is the richness of their tonal balance, due in part to the richness of tone of the bottom half of the ensemble, violist Sándor Roth and cellist Imre Hartman. I have always found their sound richer and more attractive than their main competitors, the Budapest Quartet.
These are performances of great warmth and tenderness, but never crossing the line into sentimentality or sogginess, in large part because of that firm rhythmic pulse. The transfers by Opus Kura are very good....This disc is absolutely treasurable - a ‘must-have’ for anyone who truly loves chamber music.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"The Léner Quartet enjoyed one of the great recording careers, lasting from 1922 to 1939 and involving distinguished guest artists: pianist Loeser-Lebert, hornists Aubrey and Dennis Brain, bassoonist Hinchliff, oboist Goossens, clarinetist Charles Draper, violists d’Oliveira and William Primrose, and bassist Hobday. The Léner legacy is a collector’s dream…."
-Tully Potter, CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Summer, 2003
“Few instrumentalists of the twentieth century did more to establish a solo rôle for an instrument than Dennis Brain. By age 36, he had helped restore the four Mozart and two Strauss horn concertos to the repertory, inspired Hindemith, Britten, and others to write for his instrument, and generally set the standard for twentieth century horn soloists.
Born in 1921, Brain was raised in a London horn-playing family. Both his father, Aubrey Brain, and his uncle played professionally, as did their father, Alfred Brain Sr., himself the son of a horn player. (His other brother, Leonard, was a noted oboist.) In 1936, he began studies with his father at the Royal Academy of Music, and two years later made an acclaimed London début as a soloist in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #1 with the Busch Chamber Players.
Brain soon became a frequent soloist with the Royal Air Force Central Band, with which he filled the position of principal horn during World War II. His growing reputation was cemented during a goodwill tour of America, during which he received an invitation from Leopold Stokowski to join the Philadelphia Orchestra after the war. This was just one of several invitations that Brain received, however, and he eventually took the job of principal horn with the Royal Philharmonic. Later he moved on to become principal horn of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
All the while, Brain was a sought-after horn soloist and chamber musician. During the postwar years, he made a series of now-classic recordings of concertos by Mozart, Strauss, and Hindemith, as well as of various chamber and recital works. Among the additions to the horn literature directly inspired by Brain were works by Britten, Hindemith, Malcom Arnold, and Gordon Jacob. His virtuosic command of the instrument stimulated two of Britten's greatest chamber works, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (1943) and the Canticle III (1953).
Brain took up conducting as well and founded a wind quintet that won him considerable fame. It was following a concert by this quintet at the Edinburgh Festival on 1 September, 1957, that Brain was killed in a car accident on his way back to London. Benjamin Britten has written of that fateful night that ‘it has robbed us of an artist with the unique combination of superb technical command of his instrument, great musicianship, a lively and intelligent interest in music of all sorts, and a fine performing temperament, coupled with a charming personality’."
- Brian Wise, allmusic.com