Nicholas Angelich plays Brahms

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Klavierstücke, Op. 76
PERFORMER: Nicholas Angelich (piano); Frankfurt Radio SO/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 266 3492

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Nicholas Angelich has proved himself a marvellous Brahmsian, notably in last year’s double album of the three Piano Quartets, also for Virgin. There is a sense in which the Second Piano Concerto is their successor, chamber-music writ large.

Yet there is nothing small-scale about this performance, which he projects with the utmost passion in the first two movements, fully equal to the challenges of what is perhaps Brahms’s most difficult piano part. Angelich produces a rich and solid tone-quality throughout its full range, with exceptionally powerful low-register playing.

The Frankfurt Radio SO provides sterling if rather stolid support, though the (uncredited) lead cello expounds the third movement solo with exemplary refinement of feeling and the performance is extremely well-balanced from the point of view of ensemble. 

Angelich is also on excellent form for the Op. 76 pieces; his gift for sensitive phrasing, already shown in the Concerto’s third movement, is again in evidence here, and he is especially satisfying in rendering their moods of mellow contemplation.

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It’s a very romantic interpretation, less disturbing than that of, say, Libor Novacek or Cédric Tiberghien, to name two superb accounts I’ve reviewed in the past few years, but with wonderful rhythmic vitality and beautifully nuanced in the pieces’ continual and sometimes enigmatic interplay of light and shade. Calum MacDonald