Brahms: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 5; Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76/2; Intermezzo in A minor, Op. 76/7; Hungarian Dance No. 1; Hungarian Dance No. 2; Hungarian Dance No. 3; Hungarian Dance No. 6; Hungarian Dance No. 7

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 5; Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76/2; Intermezzo in A minor, Op. 76/7; Hungarian Dance No. 1; Hungarian Dance No. 2; Hungarian Dance No. 3; Hungarian Dance No. 6; Hungarian Dance No. 7
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63886 2
There have been occasions in recent years when the prodigiously gifted Kissin has been disappointingly content to play to the gallery, so it’s good to be able to report that this impressive recital finds him right back on form. Here is Brahms playing of the highest quality, full of insight and with an unerring ear for the music’s ebb and flow. Kissin takes an unusually urgent view of the F minor Sonata’s opening movement, though without ever losing sight of its grandeur and weight; and his intimacy and expressive flexibility in the slow movement are admirable. Certainly, there’s no shortage of memorable alternatives in this work: Clifford Curzon’s classic Decca recording, for instance; or Grigory Sokolov’s spellbinding live recording on Opus 111. But for all his warmth and quiet rapture in the slow movement, Curzon can’t match Kissin’s marriage of impetuosity and keyboard mastery in the more agitated moments of the finale, while Sokolov’s liberal rubato won’t be to everyone’s taste.

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The larger-than-life Kissin resurfaces, perhaps, in the selection of Hungarian Dances in their rarely heard two-hands incarnation. But these are essentially party pieces, and when you can play the piano as well as this no one is likely to complain. The instrument itself sounds a little strident, and RCA’s recording – particularly in the Sonata’s Intermezzo fourth movement, where the theme of the main slow movement is transformed into an eerie funeral march – is a touch too recessed for my taste. All the same, a disc to treasure. Misha Donat