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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat Op 83 (1878-81)
Klavierstücke (Six Pieces) Op 118 (1892)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
National Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra/René Köhler
Recorded March 1992 and May 1998

This disc has been withdrawn from sale as it might not be performed by Joyce Hatto

Pupil of Serge Krish, Zbigniew Drzewiecki and Ilona Kabos and one who has worked with some big names – Beecham, de Sabata, Kletzki, Carl Orff, Britten and Vaughan Williams among others – Joyce Hatto has now recorded both Brahms Concertos for Concert Artist/Fidelio. As indeed she has continued to set down a vast amount of her repertoire for them in the last decade. Her Brahms is consistent in tone and in direction. She favours tensile strength at relatively – but certainly not outrageously – sedate tempi. In the main the opening movement of the B minor observes those verities of Brahms playing that maintain weight but keep things moving. It seems like a slow, sonorous introduction under the direction of René Köhler but in fact the movement as a whole doesn’t sag even though it takes 18.40 (Barenboim with Barbirolli was half a minute slower, Rubinstein and Krips nearly two minutes quicker and Gilels and Jochum three-quarters of a minute quicker). I felt however that the chordal flourishes didn’t really ring out as decisively as they might; at 15.20 she doesn’t sound heroic enough and there were moments when the sense of inevitable tension this movement should generate was in danger of being breached. Her tempo for the Allegro appassionato is conventional and apposite – she points figures with acumen and in the melting passage that seems to set a seal on pianists’ performances of this week (Horowitz brutal, Gilels melting, for example) Hatto charts a middle course. She offers rubato and phrase pointing at a forwardly moving tempo. The (unnamed) cello soloist in the Andante is restrained but expressively contoured. How delightfully Hatto relishes the chamber intimacies that develop in this movement, dancing and entwining around the cello’s figures with affection and chamber delicacy. She and Köhler are excellent at the lightening of tone in the finale, Hatto springing her rhythm with intelligence though I felt all concerned could have done something to mitigate the sense of (relative) inconclusiveness at the very end of the work. I didn’t feel they should have engaged in false heroics but this is a big work and it needs a commensurately big profile.

The disc is concluded with Brahms’ penultimate works for solo piano, the six Klavierstücke Op 118. These are in general most intelligently played; she doesn’t linger unnecessarily, as for example in the A major Intermezzo – no overly dainty playing either; her goal is architectural and tonal and to this extent she can be affecting. The F minor Intermezzo is finely dramatic, strong and full of character as well.

Jonathan Woolf

see also

JOYCE HATTO - A Pianist of Extraordinary Personality and Promise: Comment and Interview by Burnett James

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