|1. Works for Solo Piano, Volume 1|
|2. Rhapsodies, Op. 79 Nos 1 and 2|
|3. Intermezzos, Op. 116 No. 4|
|4. Op. 117 No. 1|
|5. Op. 118 No. 2|
|6. Capriccios, Op. 116 Nos 1, 3, and 7|
|7. Romance, Op. 118 No. 5 / Ballade, Op. 10 No. 4|
|8. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24|
Topped and tailed with concert platform panache by the Rhapsody Op.79 No.1 and the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel (Op.24), the middle meat of the disc contains more reflective representations ranging from Opus 10, composed as a 21-year-old, through to three of the mature sets, Opuses 116, 117, 118, published near the end of his life. The ear is naturally led to compare and contrast the enormous breath of musical thought and style that spans Brahms' career.
Getting down to the playing itself, these are interpretations that feel as if they get right to the heart of Brahms the man and the musician with the impression they weave of Romantic expression melded with deference to classical form and sensibilities. From the introspection of Intermezzo Op.118 No.2 with its gorgeous washes of sound, to the crisp, virtuosic homage to past masters that is the ‘Handel Variations’, his articulation is deft and colourful, and his overall style expansive. The multifarious strands of Brahms' dense, complex and contrapuntal writing are beautifully balanced, with a sure structural grasp that carries the ear and sustains the musical argument equally convincingly across individual phrases and long, multi-sectioned pieces.
What a triumph of Brahmsian thought. Volume Two is already on this reviewer's wish list.
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