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Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3; 7 Fantasien

Adam Laloum (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Piano Sonata No. 3; 7 Fantasien, Op. 116
Adam Laloum (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902666   60:30 mins


The French pianist Adam Laloum is a noted chamber player, but this recording is a reminder of his solo excellence. Moreover, the liner note by Matthias Kornemann is an illuminating pleasure in itself, partly thanks to its deft historical placing of the works in Brahms’s career, and also due to its evocative turn of phrase. To describe the opening of the Third Piano Sonata as being ‘like an unexpected, sudden chemical reaction’ really does nail both it and the way Laloum plays it.

Schoenberg hailed the prophetic originality of this music. Laloum simply lets it flower, bringing out the first movement’s alternation of big-boned magnificence and muted pensiveness with cool authority; his feel for the drama of this work – Brahms’s farewell to the genre at the tender age of 20 – keeps the listener on the edge of their seat throughout. The Andante comes with irresistibly persuasive delicacy, the ‘Intermezzo’ with an aura of mystery.

The Op. 116 Fantasien are gorgeously played, Laloum making the most of the huge landscape they inhabit. The first ‘Intermezzo’seems to have emerged from a ravishing stillness, with the second and third evincing respectively grave beauty and a weightless ghostly tread. After the sweetly singing fourth ‘Intermezzo’, the concluding ‘Capriccio’ feels like a liberation.


Michael Church