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Brahms the Progressive: Works by Brahms, Berg and Webern

Pina Napolitano (Odradek Records)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Brahms the Progressive
Brahms: Klavierstücke, Opp. 118 & 119; Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1; Webern: Kinderstück; Satz für Klavier; Klavierstück – Im Tempo eines Menuetts; Variations, Op. 27
Pina Napolitano (piano)
Odradek Records ODRCD330 62:84 mins


‘Brahms the Progressive’ was the title of an essay Schoenberg published in 1933. As Hugh Collins Rice writes in the CD’s booklet-note, Schoenberg’s essay challenged the widely-held assumption that Wagner had led the way to the new musical language of the 20th century, with Brahms relegated to the status of a bystander. Pina Napolitano says she has always sensed Romantic echoes in works of the Second Viennese School, and in Brahms’s music an elusive modernity: by juxtaposition she hopes to lay bare the continuity between the two. After the last of Brahms’s Op. 118 pieces, with its delicate suggestiveness and mysteriously intricate structure, Webern’s Kinderstück (children’s piece) continues in strikingly similar mood, while Berg’s Sonata has a very Brahmsian sweep. Webern’s Variations are, as Rice observes, Janus-faced in their nods to the past and anticipation of the future. And in seguing seamlessly from the last of Webern’s Variations to the first of Brahms’s Op. 119 pieces she has shown indeed that there is no break, only a metamorphosis. Napolitano’s touch, which is at once forceful and seductive, helps bind everything together on this very enjoyable disc.


Michael Church