Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1, Op 15

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1, Op 15

Article excerpt

Piano Concerto No 1, Op 15 (a). Four Ballades, Op 10

Paul Lewis pf (a) Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Daniel Harding

Harmonia Mundi (F) HMC90 2191 (72' * DDD)

In a concerto that gives a fair share of the heavy lifting to the orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony, under Daniel Harding's expert baton, distinguish themselves. The wind band, plangent and exquisitely blended, floats effortlessly above a string choir of almost embarrassing luxuriousness. This is an ensemble that can speak audibly in the merest whisper. They are ever sensitive to their soloist, Paul Lewis, heard here in his first recording of Brahms.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a pianist who has laboured so fruitfully in Schubert's field, Lewis is pervasively lyrical in the D minor Concerto. The chordal edifice of the second theme, for instance, is imbued with a melting legato that rises and falls with the contours of fine singing. The beauty of Lewis's sound is evident throughout, but especially at the transition into the development, where the piano's protesting cascade of octaves rings like chiming bells. As the first movement winds down before the final sprint to the finish, Lewis veils his sound and stretches the tempo to create a grippingly suspenseful aura of anticipation.

Following the first movement's Sturm und Drang, the Adagio unfolds with unadorned simplicity. Nothing here of the tragic utterance, excruciating suspensions or emotional catharsis in Schnabel's 1938 account with Szell and the LPO. …

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