WORKS: Variations on an Original Theme in D; Variations on a Hungarian Song in D; Five Studies for Piano
PERFORMER: Idil Biret (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550509 DDD
For such an important composer of piano music, Brahms is poorly served on CD – at least as far as quality goes. The veteran Turkish pianist Idil Biret has recorded all his piano music, though her cool, detached facility casts the music adrift from its emotional moorings. Still, she meets the demands of the virtuoso Studies with fair aplomb.
The young American David Buechner is a different matter and, to judge by this CD, he’s a Brahms interpreter of considerable originality. He makes much of the darkness and mystery in the music and allows it plenty of time to breathe deeply. His performance of the Variations on an Original Theme takes two minutes longer than Biret’s, but then he finds depths which she never suspects. It would be hard to find more thoughtful or powerful performances of the popular two Rhapsodies, though Murray Perahia in the first remains a model of how to make a rather sprawling piece seem tighter than it really is. Buechner takes a more Romantic, looser-limbed approach, which works because of his strong emotional commitment. It’s a pity he wasn’t asked to devote the whole of the disc to Brahms, instead of filling it up with music by Dvorák, which is pleasant enough but not really characteristic of its composer. Adrian Jack