Johannes Brahms: Piano Works

Johannes Brahms (1833-1896) absorbed and integrated the musical legacy of his time, as did J.S. Bach before him. The music of Brahms is intimately connected to and rooted in the German-Austrian tradition that he inherited. For Brahms, this tradition was very much alive and relevant; he constantly measured his own efforts against the achievements of Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, trying to live up to and continue their legacy. He was not looking back to the past, but “progressing” (to use the terminology of Schoenberg’s essay “Brahms the Progressive”) towards a past that was yet to be fulfilled.

There is a precious sense of inevitability in great art, as if every masterpiece was meant to be created exactly as it is. The works of Brahms are amazingly organic, meticulously calculated and very human at the same time. This fusion of intellect and feeling, sincerity and reserve, heartfelt emotion and impeccable taste is unique to Brahms. It makes his music inevitable and indispensable. Vladimir Feltsman

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Face to face with Brahms

The rare [unique] Vladimir Feltsman interprets his pages for piano with an orchestral sound palette and impressive vision.

We find here a judicious program dedicated to the collections of short pieces, fleeting visions of Brahms that Feltsman considers the most emblematic. The text of the libretto written by Feltsman reveals a complicity between the composer and the Soviet emigre for whom 'discipline is the expression of freedom.'

Between shadow and clarity

Thus, it is with a discipline that Feltsman builds, without precipitation or sentimentality, the world of Brahms, where a true duality settles. Structural rigor and orchestral richness are omnipresent. The sweetness of the Intermezzi never leaves its troubled waters: the tumult of Capricci Op 76 and fantasies op 116 reaches a rare intensity without pretension.

While the momentum is sustained, as evidenced by Intermezzo No. 2 of Op 118, this careful interpretation reflects a deep understanding of Brahms writing.

The solitary artist's complex soul reveals itself in the stormy waves of the Rhapsodies, the enchantment of Op 119, and the poetry of the Ballades interpreted as a great uninterrupted epic. The world of Brahms, according to Vladimir Feltsman, is seismic and tender, sublime and terrifying, free and impassable - to which one could add the reflection of a certain Clara Schumann 'Without doubt here is a secret and interior world.'  Melissa Khong, Les Choc du Moins

"This is a 2 CD set of Brahms's (1833-1896) piano music. At both CDs running at over 77 minutes Nimbus have certainly managed to include a lot. Brahms was of course a fine pianist. His piano sonatas were written quite early in his career and he did not return to this genre.

Included on these CDs are Brahms's piano music written later between 1854 and 1893. These are all of medium to small scale and last under 10 minutes. On these CDs we get: Balladen Op.10 (1856), Fantasien Op.116 (1892), 6 Klavierstucke Op,118 (1893), 8 Klavierstucke Op.76 (1879), 2 Rhapsodien Op.79 (1880), 3 Intermezzi Op.117 (1892) and 4 Klavierstucke Op.119 (1893). There are of course dozens of recordings of these pieces. However, here we do get these major piano works by Brahms compactly packaged in two CDs.

Needless to say they are all wonderfully played by Vladimir Feltsman with a beautiful piano sound. Perhaps the highlight though is the booklet written by Feltsman. This includes background on Brahms, but also goes through each of the 34 pieces here in considerable detail explaining the musical style and connections. This is very enlightening and I do not recall having such an informative and stimulating essay included with other recordings." Anonymous

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