Schubert sonatas

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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett




Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Four-Hand Piano Music Vol. 14
Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26 (arranged for piano duet - one piano, four hands) (1862) [45:52]
Five waltzes, from set of 16, Op. 39 (arranged for piano duo - two pianos) (1865) [06:33]
Silke-Thora Matthies (piano)
Christian Köhn (piano)
rec. Clara-Wieck-Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany, 31 Oct-6 Nov 2000 DDD
NAXOS 8.554821 [52:24]


Brahms was a most accomplished pianist and supported his family financially from an early age playing the piano in dockside bordellos in the port of Hamburg. His output for the piano spanned his entire life. He made many piano reductions of his various orchestral, choral and chamber works; many of them for piano-duo. This allowed them greater accessibility to a much wider audience. Only recently I heard on the radio a performance of Brahms’ own four-handed piano reduction of the mighty German Requiem.

This Naxos release is volume 14 in their series of Brahms’ Four-Hand Piano Music and features the Piano Quartet No. 2, another welcome addition to the catalogue. Brahms wrote his first and second piano quartets within a year of each other between 1861 and 1862. The composer was said to be especially fond of the second which differs from the first in that fragmentary motives are used in place of developed melodies. Brahms wrote a third piano quartet in c minor that he commenced earlier in 1855 and then discarded. He later transposed, revised and published the score in 1875 as his op. 60.

German born pianists Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian Köhn have been performing as a partnership for twenty years. The duo have been consistently impressing with memorable and sparkling performances in this series. In the expansive second A major Quartet the pairing of Matthies and Köhn provide impressive force and power in the passionate thematic material towards the end of the lengthy opening movement. The duo’s playing is simply spellbinding in the brooding nocturne of the poco adagio and bold and expressive in the large-scale scherzo; with its unusual sonata form. Matthies and Köhn clearly love this repertoire and their intense performance of the powerful rhythmic momentum and robust thematic material of the final movement allegro is especially spirited.

The Five waltzes are a selection taken from the op. 39 set. The duo play this light and vivacious music effortlessly, although their touch feels slightly too heavy at times. Matthies and Köhn are especially graceful in the highly tuneful A flat major waltz, the most celebrated piece of the set and highly deserving of its elevated status.

At a total timing of 52:24 the disc represents short measure which rather lets the release down. Goodness knows why the remaining eleven waltzes of the set for four-hand piano could have not been included.

Naxos have picked a winning combination with the supreme talents of Matthies and Köhn.

Michael Cookson

see also Review by Patrick Waller








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