Brahms: Waltzes, Op. 39; Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24; Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Three Intermezzi, Op. 117

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Waltzes, Op. 39; Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24; Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Three Intermezzi, Op. 117
PERFORMER: Jenö Jandó (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.57029
Naxos already have a perfectly good complete Brahms piano music cycle from the Turkish pianist Idil Biret, so presumably this fine recital by the Hungarian Jenö Jandó is not intended as an instalment of a rival series. Certainly, Jandó has been a mainstay of the Naxos stable from the first, and in this music as in so much other repertoire he is an absolutely safe pair of hands.

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Here, the Op. 79 Rhapsodies are thoughtfully articulated as well as powerful, the Op. 117 Intermezzi ruminative, crepuscular, bearing

the impress of a life’s experience. His delicacy of touch and flexibility of rhythm in the Op. 39 Waltzes are exemplary – you’ll be hard pushed to find any traces of sentimentality here; sentiment is given its most elegant due. The delicacy is notable again in some of the Handel Variations, though elsewhere he displays bravura playing to rank with the best and the necessary rock-like solidity in the concluding Fugue.

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All the same, while there is nothing here that cannot be honestly enjoyed throughout for the pianist’s artistry and understanding of this repertoire, these accounts are neither visionary nor revelatory interpretations. There are superior alternatives to be found – in the Rhapsodies, for instance, Hélène Grimaud’s recent, superbly-felt and structured account. As for the Handel Variations, in the current absence of Jorge Bolet’s magnificent Decca account you are more comprehensively served by the admirable Emanuel Ax, or Seta Tanyel on Hyperion, or Julius Katchen’s classic reading (also on Decca). It has also to be said, too, that Jandó is audibly and sometimes distractingly vocal as he croons to his own performances. But if you want a very good budget-price version of these works you needn’t look any further than this. Calum MacDonald