Alvanis follows his earlier CD containing the first ten Hungarian
Dances (plus Studies and Rhapsodies) with this recording of the
less well known examples from Books 3 and 4. I haven’t had a chance
to consult the New Grove but I am not entirely convinced that
the transcriptions for solo piano are the work of Brahms himself,
unlike the formidably difficult versions of numbers 1 to 10. The
list of works I consulted was somewhat ambiguous. The more familiar
Books 1 and 2 have been the subject of
solo recordings from Kissin and Budiardjo
within the last couple of years but, as far as I know, the later
sets have received scant attention in the two-hand versions.
or not Alvanis made his own transcriptions, it matters little for
these are fine accounts of music that deserves to be better known.
Of course, four-hand players will know them well already, and
may feel that the original form is good enough, not to mention
the orchestral versions.
CD has something of the air of a completist’s
edition about it. The sarabandes, gavottes
for piano and gigues are all student works composed when Brahms
was studying the music of J.S. Bach; as such, they are skilful
exercises, worth hearing but hardly for repeated listening.
The study on Schubert’s E flat impromptu reminds us how
important was Brahms’ contribution to the catalogue of musically
worthwhile study material, although, musically speaking, there
is no way I would prefer to listen to this version rather than
Gavotte’ is much more memorable, while the Variations in D minor
is a serious, truly ‘Brahmsian’ work, though again, I would always
prefer to hear the far greater diversity of his Variations on
a Theme of Handel.
music is well played and worth having for the Hungarian Dances
and the D minor Variations. The student material may be useful
for those who want to see how Brahms somehow integrated Baroque
instincts into a Romantic context.