The husband-and-wife duo of Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson commence this one piano/four hand programme with Brahms’s singerless edition of his Liebeslieder Waltzes Book 1. One hardly misses the vocal component, since Fleisher and Jacobson truly sing at the keyboard. What genial phrasing, supple balances and effortless ensemble unanimity they achieve, and without getting overly loud when textures become thick, as even the most experienced duet practitioners tend to do. The little tenutos in ‘O die Frauen’ suggest that the pianists might be mouthing the text as they play (leaning on the first syllable of ‘Frauen’), and the often turgid ‘Die grüne Hopfenranke’ transpires lightly. The muted delicacy of ‘Nachtigall, sie singt so schön’ may be worth the price of the entire release.
Within the Schubert F minor Fantasie’s straightforward parameters lie discreet smidgens of rubato and an avoidance of foursquare accentuation, even if this account doesn’t quite match the tonal allure of the classic Perahia/Lupu recording. By contrast, the duo’s clear and conscientious rendition of Ravel’s La valse lacks the sweep and giddy abandon one hears from the best two piano (Argerich/Freire) and solo piano (Muraro) versions. However, the performance catches fire in the final peroration. While William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost Rag gains little in translation from its original two-hand incarnation to the duet medium, Fleisher and Jacobson phrase the gentle loping dotted rhythms with idiomatic simplicity and grace. Buy this for the Brahms.