Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Seven Fantasias, Op.116 [18:52]
Three Intermezzi, Op.117 [14:43]
Six Piano Pieces, Op.118 [22:34]
Four Piano Pieces, Op.119 [13:06]
Pierre Froment (piano)
rec. May 2006–November 2008
Forgotten Records Studio, Rennes FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR02P [70:00]
For those coming new to Pierre Froment, he was born in 1937 and was a student of Alfred Cortot, no less. Now retired, he has held teaching posts at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, Conservatoire d’Angers and the Conservatoire de Rennes. In collaboration with the Rennes-based label Forgotten Records, he has decided to commit his repertoire to disc. Many of these works he has been playing since childhood, yet his interpretations have evolved over the years, as has his style of playing. Schumann and Chopin feature heavily, no doubt reflecting the influence of Cortot. In Brahms, Wilhelm Kempff has been an inspiration.
Brahms’ late piano works date from the early 1890s, the last decade of his life. Their autumnal character evokes intimacy and introspection, qualities which are revealed in Froment’s performances. He captures the wide-ranging emotions found in the individual pieces from the tender lyricism of the Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, to the declamatory power of the Rhapsodie which ends the Op. 119 set. The exuberance and passion of Op. 118 No. 1 contrasts with the wistful introspection of Op. 119 No. 1.
I’m particularly fond of the Op. 117 pieces, where Brahms concentrates and distils his musical thoughts into these ‘three lullabies to my sorrows’. In the first, Froment points up the melody, delicately voicing the chords. No. 2 has a light diaphanous quality, and I love the elegant way the pianist negotiates the falling arpeggio figures, taking us on a journey through the succession of tonalities. There’s bleakness and sorrow in the world-weary tread of the Intermezzo Op. 116, No. 5. Op. 118 No. 2 has an underlying vulnerability, with rubato tastefully applied. There’s a plaintive simplicity in Op. 119 No. 1, and a freewheeling rapture in No. 3.
Recorded in the intimate setting of the Forgotten Records Studio, Rennes, these performances reveal the richness and breadth of Brahms late piano style. The pianist has provided some notes in French.