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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Four Hand Piano Music, Volume 8
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op.98 (1884)
Tragic Overture, Op. 81 (1880)
Silke-Thora Matthies, Christian Köln (piano duet)
Rec. Clara Wieck Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany on September 2nd-7th, 1996. DDD
NAXOS 8.554117 [54’16]

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Performing a mainstay of the orchestral repertoire in an arrangement for piano duet at home is one thing, but issuing it on the open market raises all sorts of questions. Certainly, the curiosity value may well convince some collectors to part with a fiver, but whatever the talents of the Matthies-Köhn duo, they cannot erase memories of the Brahmsian original.

In the event, these pianists provide neat, adequate performances that only occasionally take off and immerse the listener in the spirit of Brahms. So in the Symphony, the first movement is neat and accurate, but more imagination is needed to compensate for the generally monochrome colours. The whole experience, in fact, serves as a salutary reminder of the importance of scoring in Brahms’ symphonic world.

It is only in the third movement that they take off to any extent. Here all is exuberant (and the pianistic imitation of a triangle is great fun!), and the success of this movement leads on to a sensitive and carefully considered finale. There is no denying this version of the Fourth is worth hearing, but whether it is worth hearing more than the once is up for discussion.

The Tragic Overture is given an appropriately dramatic reading, with fortissimo chords nicely together. Is it actually that this is more successful, or was it that my ears were getting used to the whole idea?. Whatever the case, there is no doubting the dedication of the performers (Köhn is after all editor of the Bärenreiter Edition of the Brahms four-hand piano music). Just don’t expect any massive revelations.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Roy Brewer



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