WORKS: Schumann Variations, Op. 9; Variations & Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24
PERFORMER: Mikhail Rudy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55167 2 DDD
The invention and diversity of Brahms’s piano variations draw fascinatingly different responses from these pianists. Rudy’s thoughtful programme exploits the tension between the stylistic origins of the themes and Brahms’s imaginative transformations of them, while Ian Hobson’s complete set of variations offers dynamic accounts that reinforce the striking imprint of Brahms’s own Romantic musical language.
Close, intimate recording emphasises Rudy’s appropriately sensitive, poetic cantabile in the Schumann Variations, Op. 9, and heightens his winning portrayal of the composer’s youthful verve in the Variations on a Hungarian Song. Most impressive, though, are his performances of the String Sextet and Handel Variations, in which attentive, stylish playing effectively highlights the opposition between the music’s Baroque tendencies and Brahms’s lush Romanticism. By contrast, Hobson’s robust sound and flexible approach to tempo are enhanced by spacious recording. His expression of the Op. 9 Variations’ free-fantasy character is compelling, as is his enchanting blend of lyricism and power in the Paganini and Handel sets. The four-handed Schumann Variations, Op. 23, and Haydn Variations, Op. 56b, provide added inducements to Hobson’s issue. Nicholas Rast