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.
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.
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.
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.
have picked a winning combination with the supreme talents
of Matthies and Köhn.
see also Review
by Patrick Waller