by Bavarian Radio with little if any of the studio objectivity
that can harden into coldness this is an attractive example
of Elena Kuschnerova’s credentials as a Brahmsian. Taking Opp.116-119
as a programme clearly has dangers, not least those of a certain
want of contrast and of a succession of intermezzi and Capriccios.
Yet there are plenty of opportunities for her to vest them with
her authority and as a disc that explores this chunk of the
repertoire, she does so with sensibility.
Op.116 shows her priorities. Less flinty
and staccato based than Kempff’s 1960s DG cycle her opening
Capriccio employs far more pedal and longitudinal bass sonorities.
She is inclined to indulge the slower movements in a way that
Kempff is not – maybe to some his way is rather brusque and
anti-Romantic – though the corollary is that the older player
tended to mine a vein of whimsical humour that she rather obscures;
that’s certainly the case in the first intermezzo. She takes
a good, decisive tempo in the second Capriccio, pausing for
the central section but slightly disruptively for the good of
the longer line.
In Op.117 we find
that Kempff retains a certain affectionate aloofness in the
first of the three Intermezzi whilst Kuschnerova punches out
some left hand bass lines to good, dramatic effect, as indeed
we find in the following intermezzi where she etches a considerable
amount of detail, without becoming at all over refined. In the
first of Op.116 she is inclined to be a touch emphatic and heavy
leading to a certain rhythmic inflexibility but she is richly
romantic in the famous second Intermezzo of the set, simply
laying out a rich carpet of tonal allure. Kempff by contrast
tends more to an Andantino than a true Andante, determined not
to sink into a morass of sentiment. Still she clearly has reserves
of bravura and in the Ballade she unfurls some muscular and
swinging rhythm, contrasting with Kempff’s more loquacious,
chatty and lighter inflexions. Her Romanze is very poetic indeed.
Of the four pieces that comprise Op.119 she delineates the second
Intermezzo neatly, and accents the third briskly and pointedly.
As with almost all examples in these sets, Kempff is more pert
and reserved than Kuschnerova.
A most worthwhile
survey then - but a kind of mini encyclopaedic one. It has the
strength of its convictions, with good notes and as I noted
equally good sound.