Video Pick of the Week: Koen Claeys and Quatuor Hermes Play the World Premiere of Brouwer’s ‘Quintet No. 2’

Back in 2017, I reviewed an excellent album by Belgian guitarist Koen Claeys called Paint Me Blue, which was dominated by his interpretations of jazzy pieces by everyone from George Gershwin to Keith Jarrett to fellow Belgian Toots Thielemans; a very cool album from beginning to end. That disc also contained a fine version of Leo Brouwer’s Variations on a Theme by Django Reinhardt: Nuages.

Well, we’re a few years down the road from that, but now Claeys has emerged with a video (posted February 1, 2020) of an exciting new chamber work from Leo Brouwer—Quintet No. 2—written for Claeys, who debuted it this past December along with the France-based string quartet Quatuor Hermes at a concert honoring the maestro in his 80th birthday year (which has been celebrated worldwide in the classical guitar world and seen the debuts of a number of new Brouwer works).

“It is a wonderful single-movement quintet,” Claeys tells us, “so full of character—sometimes sensuous and delicate, but mostly vibrant and vigorous. That stylistic signature is very reminiscent to the magical realism of Cuban musicologist and novelist Alejo Carpentier, which explains the full title: Quinteto n° 2, In Memoriam Alejo Carpentier, para Guitarra y cuarteto de cuerdas.”


The nine-minute work is a lively and dynamic piece, full of drama but also lyrical passages; a nice balance of ensemble playing and passages carried primarily by the guitar or by the quartet. There’s also a minute-long guitar cadenza towards the end of the piece that’s quite attractive. The members of Quatuor Hermes are Omer Bouchez and Elise Liu (violins), Yung-Hsin Lou Chang (viola) and Yan Levionnois (cello).

Hopefully this wonderful piece will turn up on an album sometime in the future! But for now enjoy this video premiere! —Blair Jackson

(Click here to read Julia Crowe’s interview with Leo Brouwer from the Summer 2018 issue of Classical Guitar. And if you missed our post a couple of months ago featuring the Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo playing the first movement of a new piece Brouwer wrote for them, you can find that here.)