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Brahms was one of the first composers to write for pairs of violins, violas and cellos, blazing the trail for Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Korngold and Schoenberg. His two sextets are early works, composed in 1860 and 1865 respectively. Brahms wrote to his publisher that the second was in 'the same joyful vein' as the first. Yet the composer's life was somber at this time: his mother died suddenly and his romantic relationship with soprano Agathe von Siebold ended in failure; indeed, the first movement of the sextet opens with a viola motif on the notes A-G-A-D-B-E (AGADHE in German notation)... The members of the Belcea Quartet called in their friends Tabea Zimmermann and Jean-Guihen Queyras to record these peaks of the chamber repertory following a concert tour to some of Europe's major venues.