Brahms: Piano Sonata in C, Op. 1; Variations on a Theme by Paganini; Klavierstücke, Op. 119

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Altamira Debut
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C, Op. 1; Variations on a Theme by Paganini; Klavierstücke, Op. 119
PERFORMER: Peter Bradley-Fulgoni (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DS 29476
Record companies and retailers like discs concentrating on one composer – they’re easier to arrange on shelves. But their choice of works often seems random. Robert Silverman’s disc is his second of Brahms’s piano music, so at least it looks as if the lot will eventually follow. He’s a decent, straight interpreter, but there’s little inner life or radiance – just try his awfully slow, reverent, but utterly dead playing in the first piece of Op. 119. To some extent the hard-toned piano and thin, shallow recording are to blame.

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Like Silverman, Peter Bradley-Fulgoni, who’s described as ‘Anglo-ltalian’, is ill-served by a shallow, small recorded sound, but it’s hard to tell whether he or the engineer is to blame for the narrow range of dynamics. He can play very nicely in lyrical passages, but he seems careful not to strain himself in the taxing Paganini Variations and lacks the necessary reserves of power for the Sonata.

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Mark Anderson won third prize at Leeds in 1993, and he’s the strongest pianist here. It’s a pity Nimbus put the microphone so far from the performer that clarity and impact are affected, for Anderson offers two early but thoroughly characteristic variation sets, and gives excellent performances of Brahms’s last two collections of piano pieces. He’s particularly responsive to every shade of expression in the second of Op. 118, and balances the slightly schmaltzy middle section in the last of Op. 119 sensitively. But if you want all Brahms’s late piano pieces on one disc, you have no choice but to go for the magnificent Hélène Grimaud on Erato. Adrian Jack