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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

Brahms Piano Works


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Showing 1-25 of 81 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 26, 2010, 12:20:32 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
Recently I purchased a CD of Radu Lupu playing Brahms and I am smitten with these works. I want more. Where else should I look?

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 12:25:26 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
Here's the CD I bought:

Brahms: Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Piano Pieces, Opp. 117-119

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 12:37:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2010, 12:39:14 PM PDT
William Yate says:
Sorry to tell you but you've got the best of the best there. The Eight Intermezzi, Op. 76, are also good. I love the three piano sonatas, Opp. 1, 2 and 5, and the great E-Flat Minor Scherzo, Op. 4. The Four Ballades, Op. 10, are also considered great, though I've never really gotten into them.

Except for Op. 76, all these are early works, and while still recognizably Brahms, they don't have the same feel as Opp. 117-119.

I assume you have the two piano concertos? Gilels not only does the greatest rendition of these, he includes my personal favorite Op. 116.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010, 12:46:13 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
Thanks William. I had the two concertos long ago, either on vinyl or cassette, but they never really "grabbed" me in the way that Mozart's and Beethoven's do. I'm finding that with Brahms it's really important to choose the right recording/performance. For example I recently bought all four of his symphonies with Bruno Walter conducting and I have a new appreciation for them like I never had before. I'll check out Gilels.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 12:52:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2010, 12:52:54 PM PDT
William Yate says:
I didn't realize the Lupu didn't contain Op. 116, since 116-119 are always found together. Op. 116 is your first stop.

The Walters are fantastic. Perhaps now that you like the symphonies the concertos will make more sense. I wasn't crazy about the 2nd PC at first, and now it's my favorite work of classical music.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 1:00:50 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
I just ordered the Gilels Concertos. I'll research op. 116. I just checked out some of the samples of Gould playing it and it sounded great. Any suggestions?

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 1:04:21 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
Oh, wait! The Gilels recording includes op. 116! Can't wait.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 1:11:00 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 29, 2012, 2:59:21 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010, 1:17:22 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Just discovered an old Russian CD of Emil Gilels playing Brahms's first piano quartet in G-minor with members of the old Beethoven String Quartet who premiered all of Shostakovich's but the first and last. A Schumann sonata and eight Rachmaninoff pieces share the CD. I think Gilels made a studio G-minor Quartet with the Amadeus SQ later in England. I treasured both of Rubinstein's versions, one before WWII with Pro Arte, the other post-War with Guarneris; Edwin Fischer's; and the performance I heard in Boyle Heights high school, East Los Angeles, by pianist Leonard Stein, cellist Kurt Reher, his violist brother Sven, and I forget which violinist.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 1:25:22 PM PDT
William Yate says:
"Oh, wait! The Gilels recording includes op. 116! Can't wait."

I envy you having that record to look forward to; definitely one of my desert island discs. I just gave Op. 116 another spin and I think it might be my favorite of the 116-119 group, and therefore of Brahms in general. The Intermezzo in E Major, Op. 116/4 is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

I really like Gould's Brahms, and if you're looking for a second or third set it's a good way to go. The Katchen complete solo piano works is fantastic, but if you want the variations sets without repetition, Garrick Ohlsson just came out with a complete variations set on Hyperion.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 1:36:24 PM PDT
Balok says:
I admit that I'm not a big fan of the 2d piano concerto, but I think that the Gilels/Reiner recording only makes it worse. Rubinstein/Ormandy goes a lot farther towards convincing me that it's a piece worth listening to. For #1, I'll stick with the classic Serkin/Szell recording.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010, 1:45:59 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Why not? Brahms's second piano concerto is the best one in four movements before Moszkowski's, which is higher praise than may first be apparent.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 3:01:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2010, 7:00:51 PM PDT
Among recordings of Brahms solo piano music, I wouldn't want to be without the following:

1) Julius Katchen's box set--Complete Solo Piano Music--I find Katchen to be better than most in the Late Piano Music--for me, he plays Op. 117 more tenderly than just about anyone: Brahms: Works for Solo Piano.

2) Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli--Brahms' Four Ballades. I dislike what DG has done to the sound on their Original Image processing re-release, which I'd recommend avoiding. Better to get these recordings as part of the "Great Pianists" series--in the 2nd edition devoted to Michelangeli, where they sound much closer to the original LP--which by the way had great sound: Great Pianists 69. I've never heard anyone play the 4th Ballade more beautifully than Michelangeli. (I would also strongly recommend that you have a listen to Michelangeli playing these works in concert on You Tube, where the sound is actually quite good.)

3) Dmitri Alexeev--Late Piano Music--2 CD set--EMI Forte--this is one of the best overall surveys of Brahms complete Late Piano Music--op. 116-119 that I know, and it's digitally recorded. Very sensitive playing: Piano Music / Symphonic Etudes.

4) Dmitri Bashkirov--Brahms recital on French Harmonia Mundi--one of the best Op. 117s I've ever heard, along with Katchen, but regrettably it's now out of print and hard to find.

5) Ivo Janssen--Brahms recital on the Globe label--includes a very fine 4 Ballades, and he's well recorded: Johannes Brahms: Piano Works.

6) I too have liked Radu Lupu's Decca Brahms recordings, however, they were made early in his career, and I believe that he plays these works better in concert nowadays. I wish Lupu had recorded them a second time, but alas, he doesn't like to record, and recently retired from making studio recordings. However, you might be interested to know that there is another Lupu recording of Brahms solo piano music, which unlike the one you own was digitally recorded, and includes Brahms wonderful Theme and Variations from his Sextet, Op. 18, along with the Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 5: Brahms: Piano Sonata No.3 Theme (Shm-CD), which is also available in Lupu's Brahms set at a more reasonable cost: Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 3; Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Piano Pieces, Opp. 117-119.

7) Among recordings to emerge in recent years I've most enjoyed pianist Nicholas Angelich's Late Brahms on the Virgin label--recommended if having a recent first rate sound quality is especially important to you: Brahms: Klavierstücke Op.116-119.

8 & 9) In addition, any recordings that you can find by Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter are well worth having--as long as the sound quality is acceptable--both pianists excelled in Brahms' solo piano music and the piano concertos. Richter recorded a few late Brahms pieces on a JVC/Eurodisc CD with Schumann's Bunte Blatter, and they're incredibly well played, but it's hard to find now. He is also known for his recordings of the Piano Sonatas 1 & 2 on Decca. While Gilels is especially known for his recordings of Op. 116 and the 4 Ballades for DG.

10) And speaking of the Brahms' piano concertos, the Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire made a fine set of concertos 1 & 2 with conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig a few years ago, if you are looking for recordings with a more recent sound quality: Brahms: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2.

11 & 12) Finally, among the historical pianists, both Walter Gieseking and Wilhelm Backhaus are highly regarded for their Brahms. Of the two I prefer Gieseking--particularly in the Late Piano Works: Walter Gieseking - Brahms: Works for Solo Piano 1951 recordings (Op. 76, Op. 118, Op. 119, Op. 79), as Backhaus has a tendency to play Brahms much too briskly for my tastes, except oddly enough in some of his earliest recordings.

Edit: Sorry, about the exhorbitant prices of some of my recommendations, but they appear to have gone out of print, I guess.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010, 3:08:47 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
M. R. Simpson -- With t he trifling additions of Michelangeli's unbeatable Paganini Variations, Pogorelich's crazy-beautiful Brahms recital on DGG (believe me, Brahms dreamt his Intermezzo in C#-minor would sound like this one day, and last 8 minutes!), and everything Arthur Rubinstein recorded, you're set for life.

Among the great historicals: Edwin Fischer's Variations on an Original Theme, and Elly Ney's second concerto with Max Fiedler (who knew Brahms) and Berlin Philharmonic. Rubinstein/Reiner on the first concerto. Unfortunately all the performances in 1954 by Wilhelm Furtwaengler and Erik Then-Bergh seem not to have been taped.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 4:11:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2010, 6:32:43 PM PDT
Piso,

Yes, I forgot about Michelangeli's Paganini Variations. But you won't catch me recommending Pogo's Brahms, it's too slow!... even though I do occasionally still listen to it (and it seems to depend upon my particular mood that day as to whether I like it or not.) Do you really think Brahms would have liked Pogo's Intermezzo in C minor? I'm afraid I don't know either the Fischer or Ney recordings, nor have I yet heard Rubinstein's solo Brahms recordings. It's difficult to get to everything.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 6:42:04 PM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
A big thanks to everyone that responded. There is a wealth of info here to which I will refer often. I was already looking at the Katchen set and will probably get it soon. Knowing me I will most likely eventually purchase many of the recordings recommended on this thread. This discussion forum is amazing.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 7:22:33 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
PILGRIM -- Stay your hand. Katchen is over-rated and indifferently recorded. There are far better versions of every single work in his over-rated and exaggeratedly revered box, as you'll realise one day. His early death notwithstanding (ask yourself why).

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 8:47:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2010, 9:03:23 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
A Pilgrim

IMO the only piano concerti in the same upper stratosphere with the 2 Brahms are Beethoven's 1,3,4 and 5. For the Brahms I am happy with Backhaus, Horowitz and Rubinstein.

Brahms Piano Sonata # 3 Op5 is one of the greatest post LvB. I like Bauer/Grainger and Rubinstein especially.

John

Posted on Oct 26, 2010, 9:01:00 PM PDT
Piso,

I certainly wouldn't disagree about there being better individual versions of many of Katchen's solo Brahms recordings, or that the Decca sound, at least on CD, isn't all that great, but can you name a better box set of the complete solo works?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010, 9:10:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2010, 9:13:03 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
No, I'm not in the business of selling complete sets of Brahms works. But it certainly wouldn't be Katchen, the Roumanian Wolfman, or Idil Biret. Wilhelm Kempff maybe, but prob'ly not even him. If you just want a catalog of works, there in most biographies, Geiringer, Swafford. We have to make an eclectic selection:

Michelangeli Op. 10 Ballades and Paganini Variations, EMI or live versions often leaving out different variations and scrambling order.
Don't be tempted by Richter's Paganinis, much too late, shouldn't have been released. Some of his intermezzi are good. And Schnabel's, Mandryka
Moiseiwitsch for the Handel Variations.
Edwin Fischer for the Variations on an Original Theme, previous cited.
Rubinstein's intermezzi, ballades, rhapsodies, other short pieces, not complete, and third sonata
Pogorelic;s Brahms CD for some of the most beautifully-played Intermezzo, Op. 117/2 C# minor as example
Kempff Op. 116-117-118-119
Richter or Zimerman on Sonatas 1, 2

If you hear some of these, it will immediately be apparent what Katchen's are missing.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010, 12:44:00 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Dec 24, 2012, 3:31:22 AM PST]

Posted on Oct 27, 2010, 3:32:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2010, 4:07:47 AM PDT
Go for Glenn Gould's CD of Brahms Intermezzi from 1960 as mentioned earlier in this thread. It is simply indispensable to a Brahms piano library and coupled with a late recording of Ballades and Rhapsodies. He captures the interior moods most convincingly and brings out inner detail to the structures that many pianists miss. Clearly, he plays this music with a sense of empathy that resonates with its autumnal qualities and nostalgic isolation.

It will be interesting to hear Murray Perahia's latest CD of Brahms Handel Variations, coming out later next month. Brahms:Handel Variations

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2010, 6:42:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012, 3:31:56 AM PST
Mandryka says:
Here's an essay by Maria Yudina on Op 118 -- she's is even more challenging than our very own scarecrow.

http://www.math.uchicago.edu/~ryzhik/brahms.html

Listening to Gieseking in Op 118 just now I couldn't help be impressed by the variety of moods and tones there.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010, 6:43:41 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
I agree about Glen Gould's Brahms intermezzi and Op. 10- ballades. Intermezzi fascinating (C#-minor with two extra voices!), the ballades Gould's last commercial record, I think.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010, 8:57:05 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 29, 2012, 2:59:24 PM PDT]
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
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Initial post:  Oct 26, 2010
Latest post:  Dec 25, 2012

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