BRAHMS Piano Concerto No 2 STRAUSS Burleske
Here’s the latest addition in Joseph Moog’s fast-growing discography, recorded in 2016 when he was 28. He has already impressed many – receiving Gramophone’s own Young Artist of the Year three years ago – and with such a formidable technique he can make light of the most demanding of scores. The coupling of Brahms and Strauss is an intelligent if unusual one, with the Burleske paying tongue-in-cheek homage to the second movement of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto.
This is Moog’s third recording with Nicholas Milton and it’s clearly a partnership that works well. Milton paces the mighty exposition of Brahms’s first movement with purpose and a fine sense of control and Moog’s technical aplomb is abundantly apparent. Occasionally he is perhaps a little over-eager with the accentuation (sample track 1, from 7'14") but he’s effective when duetting with solo orchestral instruments in the more intimate writing.
The Scherzo sounds almost inhumanly easy here: Hough in his recent recording finds a greater depth to the music and always shapes it beautifully. Beautiful shaping is of course essential in the slow movement and, while Moog’s is well done, it doesn’t compare to the subtle majesty with which Freire and Chailly imbue Brahms’s long phrases. But Moog’s finale is impressively light, conveying a vital sense of playfulness.
If the Brahms isn’t quite yet his piece (I would have loved to have heard him in the First Concerto), the Strauss certainly is. In terms of impish virtuosity Moog gives even the mighty Hamelin a run for his money, cherishing not only the jaw-dropping theatrics but also the ineffably lovely melodies that break in, while the allusion in the cadenza to Wagner’s Tristan chord is made clear without being over egged.
In both pieces, Moog is forwardly placed within the recording, so you won’t miss a note.