Brahms: Solo Piano Works, Vol. 2
Following the triumph of rich delights that was Volume 1 of this series, Barry Douglas presents a mixed-and-matched selection culminating in the great F minor Sonata, Op. 5, written shortly after the 20-year-old composer had met Robert and Clara Schumann. Its five-movement span, here 37 minutes long, makes it his most extensive solo piano work. It is furthermore his strongest leaning towards ‘programme music’ on a large scale: the second movement quotes a love poem by Sternau, while the fourth is unmistakeably a funeral march. Douglas precedes this miraculous composition with a selection from the Op. 10 Ballades and the late piano pieces, including the final Rhapsody Op. 119 No. 4.
The programming is perhaps slightly less satisfying than the first volume’s, as the coupling of Brahms’s early masterpiece with his very last Rhapsody represents a leap of nearly 40 years. Douglas superbly draws out the contrasts within each piece, bringing out their individual character, but the two ends of the Brahms life spectrum, between grand maestro and youthful Romantic, seem perhaps closer than is entirely comfortable. Yet Douglas’s pianism is as rewarding as before: his tone is a deep velvet cushion, the legatos full of affection and the rhythms galvanised with great energy.