Brahms Piano Concerto No 2

Towering strength and conviction in the service of the greater glory of Brahms

Author: 
Bryce Morrison

Brahms Piano Concerto No 2

Although Nicholas Angelich’s repertoire ranges far and wide, he has made a speciality in Brahms, music superbly suited to his awe-inspiring gifts. For here is a young Titan of the keyboard who, although very much his own man, takes you back to the incandescence of Emil Gilels’s early performances. In Brahms’s Second Concerto (for many the greatest of all piano concertos), Angelich and Järvi form a partnership so finely integrated as to make the singling-out of this or that detail invidious. Yet such towering strength and conviction is matched by a self-effacing quality and a need to serve only Brahms’s glory. Angelich’s playing, in particular, like giant Atlantic rollers may forge ahead with a breathtaking richness and momentum, yet listening to his first entry in the Andante it would be hard to imagine a more hushed or thoughtful climb up that magical spiral of sound. Again, in what Tovey once described as “that great childlike finale”, Angelich reminds you of a volcanic force beneath an outwardly playful surface, and the same magnificence applies to his coupling of the Op 76 Klavierstücke (a completion of his earlier disc of the Opp 116-19 Capriccios and Intermezzos – 4/07).

Few pianists in my experience have sensed Brahms’s emotional turbulence to such an acute degree. Here is none of, say, Kempff’s lighter, more understated view, Rubinstein’s or Perahia’s dancing magic in the B minor Capriccio or Myra Hess’s dreamy romanticism in No 3, but a fierce integrity that can make even the finest alternatives seem trivial. There is a dizzying acceleration, like suddenly applied centrifugal force, in the race to the climax of No 8 yet once more an unwavering depth and seriousness. Admirably recorded and balanced, these works have rarely, if ever, received finer performances.

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