BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117; 8 Klavierstucke, Op. 76; 2 Rhapsodies, Op. 79; 4 Klavierstucke, Op. 119

by | May 20, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15; Piano Concerto No.
2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117; 8 Klavierstucke, Op.
76; 2 Rhapsodies, Op. 79; 4 Klavierstucke, Op. 119 – Anton Kuerti,
piano Joseph Rescigno conducts Orchestre Metropolitaine du Montreal –
Analekta AN 2 9205-7 (3 CDs) 48:52; 46:41; 72:47****:

The two concertos, recorded 5-6 July 1998, along with the Op. 117
Intermezzi, recorded 21 May 1998, have been prior issued by Kuerti’s
Analekta label (FL 2 3139-40). The solo works are a relatively new
addition to the Kuerti legacy, having been inscribed 28-29 June 2004.
Kuerti says of the late piano pieces after 1892 that they “emanate
tender wisdom, calm resignation, and even a hint of exhaustion.”
Bearing a close relationship to Chopin and Schumann, the pieces look
forward harmonically to Debussy and to the more deconstructionist
elements of the Second Viennese School. Kuerti, who comes to this music
naturally by way of Serkin and Horszowski, makes elegant sense out of
the the Op. 76 collection of internezzi and caprices, perhaps not
pushing hard enough on the appoggiatura in the B Minor Capriccio. But
the A Major Intermezzo No. 6 has a liquid and dramatic pliancy of
expression that is quite special.

The Rhapsodies, Op. 79 have girth and shape, a portentous sonority and
melancholy, given that their romantic impulse suffers the cage of
sonata-form. The middle section of the B Minor has the effect of a
ballad, much like the Chopin Scherzo in the same key. Kuerti avoids the
tendency to rush the tempo of the G Minor, letting it assert a kind of
ineluctable fate-motive akin to Beethoven’s C Minor Symphony. The group
of Four Klavierstucke Op. 119, elicit from Kuerti haunting probing of
haunted music, especially the opening B Minor (a Glenn Gould staple)
which Kuerti plays very slowly. The E Minor, chiseled out of one varied
motif, has an autumnal grace that abuts on wistfulness. After a
plastic, fluent C Major Intermezzo, the five-bar somewhat militant
Rhapsody emerges robustly, assertively, and poetically.

The two Brahms concertos communicate more of intimacy than
monumentality, with pianist and orchestra luxuriating in the
post-Beethoven-Ninth harmonic progressions in the D Minor, and savoring
the glitter and finesse of ensemble in the B-flat Concerto. Kuerti
seems to exalt in the piano’s parlando writing, and he can shade chords
with subtle degrees of nuance. The slow movement of each of the
concertos has its own magical rhetoric: the First’s misty Adagio
transposed from a dirge for Schumann; the Second’s gliding 6/4 Andante
for cello and piano, with an improvisatory cadenza which has Kuerti
musing in quietly nocturnal colors. Prior to these collaborations I had
not known the art of conductor Rescigno, but he gets some heady
response from the Montreal players in the big opening tutti to the D
Minor Concerto, and in the clarion exuberance of the D Minor Scherzo in
the B-flat Concerto. Analekta’s recorded sound, courtesy of Jean-Pierre
Loiselle, is first-rate.

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