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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Six German Dances D820 (1824) [7:32]
Twelve Valses Nobles, D969 (1826) [11:35]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sixteen Waltzes, Op.39 (1865 four-hands, rev. 1867) [19:58]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Eight Waltzes, B101, Op.54 (1879-80) [25:37]
Dirk Joeres (piano)
rec. March 1993, Deutschlandfunk, Cologne
HERITAGE HTGCD 258 [65:01]

Let’s keep this review simple: three composers, four sets of music, all waltzes. The composers are Schubert, Brahms and Dvořák and altogether there are 42 tracks sufficient to take the German Waltzes, D820 and Valses Nobles, D969 of Schubert, Brahms’s Op.39 set, and the Czech master’s Op.54 contribution to the genre. No one would seriously imagine that this makes much programming sense – surely no one is seriously going to sit down and listen to 42 waltzes in a row – but it makes some kind of archive sense if you want to have a disc of these composer’s works in the genre. I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m clutching at straws for a rationale.
The recording is not new. It was made by Dirk Joeres – this is the second disc I’ve reviewed of his in consecutive months as pianist, not conductor – for Deutschlandfunk, Cologne over two decades ago. He has a fine technique and a canny ear for differentiation and characterisation. Interpretative problems are hardly much of a concern here, but matters of tone and deft characterisation can make the difference between a rather indifferent, all-purpose performance and one irradiated by life and geniality. In very many cases – and certainly the ones that matter most – Joeres proves a lively, sensitive and eager guide to this repertoire. He is briskly buoyant in Schubert’s German Dances and especially crisp in the B flat waltz that concludes the set. To the Valses Nobles he brings a sure touch and a real sense of charm; No.4 in G is a particularly fine example of his idiomatic flair for the repertory – Joeres has plenty of teasing wit and a good sense of playfulness that never distorts, but always remains true to its source material. And when he has to balance the slightly cod-pomposo qualities of No.9 in A minor with its corresponding lyricism, he does so fluidly.
Complete sets of the Brahms Op.39 Waltzes are hardly a rarity – from Backhaus to Katchen and beyond some diligent Brahmsians have got stuck in – though it’s often the case that you’ll encounter the set in its original version for four-hands: the Kontarsky duo recording, for example, was for many years a DG staple. The revision for two-hands came some two years later in 1867. Joeres plays the set with supple elegance, charming in the Fifth in E, affectionately sympathetic in the eighth in B flat, quietly grave in No.12 in E and not too fulsome in the most famous, No.15 in A flat, the one most often appropriated by violinists for their delectation. Dvořák’s Eight Waltzes are significantly more extended compositions than any by Schubert or Brahms here. One again Joees is a sagacious guide, vesting them with enough thoughtful and bucolic strength to give them life and shape. There are a number of complete recordings of this set though it’s not one of the composer’s most beloved. Inna Poroshina on her complete set of the composer’s solo piano works on Brilliant [92606] is less colouristic and indeed sometimes dour in comparison with Joeres. On another complete solo piano set [8.557474 is the single volume and 8.505205 is the set of 5 CDs] Stefan Veselka is probably a more consistent competitor but even he doesn’t draw out the Allegro con fuoco element of the A minor as powerfully as Joeres and his recording is a bit too resonant. Here Joeres again proves a witty exponent.
The notes are to the point, and the recording is well judged - not especially warm but hardly wintry either. 42 waltzes in a row? No. This is a disc for dipping, but dipping can be fun.
Jonathan Woolf