> BRAHMS Sonatas Kerdoncuff [TB]: Classical Reviews- July 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata in C major, Opus 1
Sonata in F sharp minor, Opus 2
Scherzo, Opus 4
François Kerdoncuff (piano)
Recorded November 1991, April 1992, Salle Adyar, Paris
TIMPANI 1C1014 [65.41]
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Among the many remarkable things about Brahms is the fact that he composed three piano sonatas during his long and illustrious career, and the last of them is his Opus 5. They are all large scale conceptions, and two of them feature on this attractively packaged Timpani disc.

François Kerdoncuff may not have broken through to a top international career during the ten years since these recordings were made, but he emerges from the challenge of playing some of Brahms's most technically demanding scores with great credit. Above all the music is given an appropriate and epic scale, aided by a recording which gives atmosphere to telling effect, especially when the tempi are slower. Consequently the two slow movements sound well, and that of the Second Sonata is really fine (TRACK: 7: 0.00). The ending, or rather transition of this movement, as the music moves into the scherzo and its Allegro tempo, is by no means easy to judge, but it is indicative of Kerdoncuff's taste as a Brahmsian that it is so effective too. And all credit to the Timpani engineers for securing such an atmospheric yet detailed recorded sound (TRACK 7: 5.34)

The two sonatas have much in common, but they are differently balanced in terms of structural weight. Whereas the First Sonata begins with an epic sweep (TRACK 1: 0.00), the Second is weighted towards the end, including a slow introduction which releases a wide ranging and flowing finale. This introduction is particularly atmospheric, with beautifully judged piano tone (TRACK 9: 0.00), while the finale proper is given a strongly articulated projection with well shaped phrasing and telling rubato.

If the disc has a weakness it comes in the Scherzo, Opus 4, which is heard at the centre of the recital. Perhaps the acoustic is just too reverberant to gain the most from the music's essential drama and rhythmic thrust. True, the pianist may not see the music in other terms, but try listening to the famous Decca recording by Julius Katchen and the point will become clear. Kerdoncuff's is a well articulated but not entirely compelling reading. However, the two sonatas dominate the programme and they are more compelling. As ever the Timpani presentation standards are of the highest order.

Terry Barfoot

The two compellingly interpreted sonatas dominate. Timpani presentation standards of highest order. see Full Review

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