The all-Brahms program given by the Primavera String Quartet and friends last night at the Wolf Trap Barns, had only one small problem: the unrelieved greatness of the music. The evening opened with the Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1, which might normally be the second or third piece played in an evening; it continued with the Horn Trio and ended with the Clarinet Quintet, both exquisitely played. There is not much music anywhere more beautiful than this, and the environment of the Barns is perfect for it.
The trouble is that Brahms did not write simple, melodious warm-up pieces of the kind that Haydn and Mozart turned out by the dozen. Dragooned into the warm-up position, the Quartet in C minor suffered at least marginally. The four women of the Primavera Quartet are superb musicians, but no ensemble, however well-rehearsed, starts a concert at the level required by this music. The same four players sounded like a different and much better ensemble in the Quintet, which closed the concert with David Singer playing clarinet.
For the Horn Trio, violinist Doris Caplin was joined by Edward Mattos at the piano and Edwin Thayer on horn. The performance was wonderfully mellow in tone (particularly in the horn-playing) and well-coordinated, though these players do not perform regularly as an ensemble.