Second Disc in Douglas's Brahms Series for Chandos

By Nicholas, Jeremy | Gramophone, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Second Disc in Douglas's Brahms Series for Chandos


Nicholas, Jeremy, Gramophone


Brahms

'Works for Solo Piano, Vol 2' Ballades--Op 10, Nos 2 & 3, 'Intermezzo'; Op 118 No 3. Intermezzos--Op 116, Nos 2 & 6; Op 117 No 2. Rhapsody, Op 119 No 4. Piano Sonata No 3, Op 5

Barry Douglas pf

Chandos (F) CHAN10757 (69' * DDD)

Barry Douglas's second volume of his projected complete Brahms cycle benefits, like the first (6/12), from an engaging programme. Instead of the usual blocks of Ballades and Klavierstucke, Douglas has fashioned a sequence of seven short works drawn from early and late works: the D major Ballade (1856), for instance, is followed by the G minor Ballade from Op 118 (1893); the E major Intermezzo from the Seven Pieces, Op 116, leads into the third of the four Op 10 Ballades, subtitled 'Intermezzo'. Clever.

All this prefaces the main work, the great F minor Sonata. And here Douglas suffers in comparison to Jonathan Plowright's recent account on the first volume of his projected complete Brahms for BIS. The most glaring difference between the two is their view of the slow movement, marked Andante (for the most part). Douglas follows the conventional translation of 'walking pace', a somewhat brisker stroll than the norm at 9'54" but engaging and assertive nevertheless. Plowright finds an altogether different tone, one of bleak despair; his sempre pp possibile in the penultimate page is like treading on eggshells. The movement lasts a shade under 14 minutes--terribly slow, and utterly transfixing. Throughout, Plowright brings greater imagination to the music than Douglas, like the way he creates tension between two contrasting voices in the Scherzo (from 0'37"): instead of the pp molto leggiero right hand being the centre of attention, he makes the octave bass the focus, echoing the principal rhythmic motif of the movement. …

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