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Dunelm Records

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Three pieces Ė piano, Op.117 (1892)
No. 1: Intermezzo in E flat [4:37]
No. 2: Intermezzo in B flat minor [4:14]
No. 3: Intermezzo in C sharp minor [6:09]
Panayiotis DEMOPOULOS (b.1977)

Farewells for piano (2004)
I. Summer farewell [1:35]
II. Spring farewell [2:51]
III. Winter farewell [1:07]
IV. Autumn farewell [1:38]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Pictures at an exhibition (1874) (Original version edited by Paul Lamm) [30:55]
Panayiotis Demopoulos (piano)
rec. The Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, Music Dept., University of York, Heslington, York, 20-21 July 2005. DDD
DUNELM DRD0251 [53:06]

The young pianist Panayiotis Demopoulos brings together a rather diverse program of solo piano works here into one recital with some rather mixed results. There is no question that Mr. Demopoulos has developed a solid and distinct keyboard technique, nor is his innate musicality in question. He does however make some choices that are at times rapturously satisfying and at others disappointing in their lack of maturity.

Opening with the late Brahms Op. 117, Demopoulos shows himself to be in best form with these quiet, melancholy and introspective works. He plays with a rich, burnished tone that is well suited to the music. He also seems to understand the sense of loss and sorrow Brahms must have been feeling when he wrote the music, owing to the recent deaths of his sister and a number of close friends. In all, this is the most successful playing on the disc, with performer and composer seemingly on the same wavelength.

We next hear a work composed by the pianist himself. I am all for new music, but I tend to find so much recent work to be episodic to a fault and rather formless. Thus I found these brief works which seem to be more about technical display than musical expression. They are not short on flashy writing, but I found myself rather shocked by their abrupt nature, especially following such serene music as the Brahms works. Perhaps if I heard them in another context, I might have been more impressed, but as it stands, these works could have been left off of this recital without detriment to the program.

I found Mr. Demopoulosís reading of Pictures to be rather curious, with some playing that was absolutely magnificent, and some that struck me as being overly aggressive and not well thought out. For example, the opening Promenade seemed brash and hurried to me, as if the viewer were angry at the paintings and not enjoying his visit. Gnomus also seemed too harsh and hurried; I would have preferred a sound more akin to Ravelís orchestration. Other moments are simply glorious, such as Baba-Yaga and The Great Gate of Kiev.

In spite of some criticisms, I do not want to detract from Mr. Demopoulosís obvious talent and musicianship. He is certainly talented, and although some of his choices were not to my personal taste, he is a passionate and thinking player with tremendous promise. I certainly hope to hear more from him, and will be anxious to see how he develops as an artist as he matures.

Sound quality is crisp and clear. The booklet is pretty vanilla but accurate and informative.

Kevin Sutton

see also reviews by Dominy Clements and Ian Milnes



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