Brahms: Hungarian Dances, Wo01; Waltzes, Op. 39; Klavierstücke, Op. 76

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Hungarian Dances, Wo01; Waltzes, Op. 39; Klavierstücke, Op. 76
PERFORMER: Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902015

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This is really distinguished playing, and the programme is cunningly designed. Cédric Tiberghien throws himself into the first book of Hungarian Dances with apparent abandon: his rhythmic verve and skill at characterising each piece, indeed every theme, are hugely enjoyable, and yet each movement is in fact very sensitively thought-through in terms of touch, pedalling and phrasing.

At the other end of the disc he gives the Op. 39 Waltzes a ballroom sweep and elegance they rarely receive, and intimacy in the gentler numbers.

But these two dance-sets bookend the perennially elusive, aristocratic Eight Pieces Op. 76, and help to reveal how these, too, are essentially dances. Not only the faster and more emphatically rhythmic Capriccios but also the Intermezzos, though these move to a vastly more complex measure, Brahms conjuring the ghosts of Schumann and Chopin.

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Tiberghien’s consummate use of rubato, his scrupulous shading of dynamics and exquisite control of tone-colour make for a memorable account of these not always easily graspable pieces. I admired Libor Novacek’s recent account of Op. 76 on Landor, but Tiberghien’s is a yet more eloquent and poetic reading, on a par with those of Katchen, Steven Kovacevich and Dmitri Alexeev, and in more natural sound than any of them. Calum MacDonald