Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor; Fantasies, Op. 116; Klavierstücke, Op. 119

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Artek
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor; Fantasies, Op. 116; Klavierstücke, Op. 119
PERFORMER: Jorge Federico Osorio (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AR-0005-2
The playing in the seven pieces of Op. 116 and four of Op. 119 is quite marvellous. There has been much nonsense written about Brahms’s late piano music, yet it is surprising how few pianists find its wavelength; they often squeeze it too much and lose a sense of poise in these precariously balanced miniatures. All the late pieces have been recorded on one disc by the remarkable Hélène Grimaud (Erato), who does, indeed, probe a good deal and arguably finds more in the music than Brahms would have imagined. Osorio is much simpler and equally satisfying in his way, for he understands the need for intimacy. In the most elusive of all Brahms’s Intermezzi, the third piece of Op. 119, he would be perfect if only he were just a shade faster and more carefree – the nearest to my ideal is Clifford Curzon, still available on Decca.

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The late pieces are recorded at a lower volume than the early Sonata, which hits you between the ears. Osorio makes a grand sound – and sonority is a good part of the battle in this strenuous music. His rhythmic detail is not always as strongly carved in the first movement as it should be, but he hits just the right tempo (quite a steady one) in the scherzo, and gives it an irresistible bounce. The big disappointment is his prosaic approach to the slow second movement and what Brahms called the ‘Rückblick’ (literally, backward glance) of the fourth. Radu Lupu finds more magic here. Adrian Jack