Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; Haydn Variations

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Haydn Variations
PERFORMER: Cédric Tiberghien (piano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jirí Belohlávek
Jirí Belohlávek and the BBCSO launch Brahms’s D minor Concerto with fire and passion. By contrast Cédric Tiberghien, from his entrance onward, adopts a more deliberate approach, displaying commendable musicality but finding meaning in well-wrought detail rather than in sweeping bravura.The recording spotlights the piano so that Tiberghien’s every note can be heard and pondered, and he never gives the impression of irresponsibility or excessive calculation. But everything is so shaped and rationally conceived that this powerful work never quite achieves its usual impact – in many of the more dramatic moments, one longs for the musical equivalent of a courageous plunge into turbulent, uncharted waters rather than an eloquent discourse on the concept of storminess. At the other end of the expressive spectrum, the slow movement flows too confidently to attain the rapt introspection that makes one hold one’s breath. Tiberghien’s is a considered and considerable performance, but there are many even finer recordings, such as the Curzon/Szell which enthralls with its vividness, poetry, and conviction. This account of the Haydn Variations is less distinguished. Scherzando passages fail to sparkle, horns in Variation 6 lack presence and focus, and the playing in general falls short of achieving either the loving phrasing or the immaculate ensemble that can make this work one of the joys of the orchestral literature.