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Cat. No. CHAN 10716 Price: 10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10716 - Brahms: Works for Solo Piano, Volume 1
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Available From: 15 March 2012
Brahms: Works for Solo Piano, Volume 1

This is Volume 1 in a new series devoted to the Works for Solo Piano by Johannes Brahms, starting with a selection of highly personal collections of Capriccios, Intermezzi, Ballades, a Romance, and Rhapsodies.

The series also marks the first major project of the internationally acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas as an exclusive Chandos artist. Since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, Douglas has established a major international career, and his reputation as a pianist and conductor continues to grow.

Douglas was the soloist in the 2011 recording of Nino Rota’s Concerto soirée (CHAN 10669), of which International Piano said: ‘For pianophiles, the headline message is undoubtedly “Barry’s back”.  A complete Brahms series beckons, for which this definitely whets the appetite.’

Brahms wrote his set of four Ballades, Op. 10 (of which No. 4 is included on this album) at the age of twenty-one, and at a time of much personal upheaval. His friend and patron Schumann had attempted suicide and been confined to a sanatorium near Bonn, and Brahms had been thrust into the role of protector and comforter of Schumann’s wife, Clara, while coming to terms with his own strong feelings for her. Reflective of the difficult situation, this work displays a deep-felt blend of the dramatic and the lyrical.

Perhaps the climax of Brahms’ activities as a composer came with the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24. This was Brahms’s first major compositional statement following his 1860 ‘Manifesto’ against the ‘New German School’. The choice of a baroque theme, the strictness of the variations, the richness and scope of the piano technique, and the display of contrapuntal method in the Fugue, all combine to present Brahms in the role of ‘Preserver of Tradition’. Even Wagner saw the importance of the work, commenting grandly that it showed what could still be done with the old forms by someone who knew how to use them.

The predominant mood of the three Intermezzos on this disc is reflective and deeply introspective, which is in strong contrast to Brahms’s Capriccios, which are passionate, almost volatile, in character. The Romance, Op. 118 No. 5 completes the album. This is a tuneful piece, which displays the lilt almost of a folksong.


“...Douglas’s playing is warm and full-bodied as well as restrained and introspective in the more intimate lyrical expressions of the Intermezzos. He manages to capture Brahms’s power without hammering at the full chordal passages and climatic moments. He builds forward motion and tension more through attentive phrasing-something especially admirable in the two rhapsodies...”
JD Moore – American Record Guide – September/October 2012

"...This is superb playing from a great pianist and marks a welcome return to the solo piano repertoire. I look forward to the next few instalments in Douglas’ Brahms cycle."
Robert Beattie - MusicWeb-International.com - 03 September 2012

"...Douglas shows, throughout the entire recital, how Brahms was not only a true musician, but a true craftsman as well... This Chandos release has not only whet my appetite but has given me an insatiable hunger for more. If top-rate performances of Brahms are what one is looking for, then look no further..."
Scott Noriega - Fanfare - September/October 2012

                      ***/****    Good/Exceptional
Ricardo Risaliti - Musica magazine - June 2012

"...The prospect of exploring Brahms’s solo piano music with Barry Douglas is an exciting one and I look forward greatly to further instalments."
John Quinn - musicweb-international.com - 19th June 2012

"... The excellent Chandos recording captures Douglas’s sound perfectly. His tone is more burnished tan I have heard it previously ... Douglas is charming in Handel’s theme and revels in the subsequent expansion into true Brahmsian territory. Douglas’s achievement is that he creates a real sense of space, of breadth of thought. Textures are clean, and the fugue is masterly shaped. The second volume is eagerly awaited."
Colin Clarke - International Piano magazine - July/August 2012

            Performance *****     Recording *****
“...Barry Douglas’s approach is straightforward and eschews any temptation towards novelty for the sake of it; instead, he goes for the music’s emotional jugular, enhanced by beautiful rich tone and structural rigour... this is a very satisfying listen.”

Jessica Duchen – BBC Music magazine – July 2012

"...his [Douglas] cycle will surely be fascinatng to follow as it unfolds."
Jed Distler - Gramophone magazine - June 2012

“Muscle and imagination come together in this well-planned Brahms recital by Barry Douglas... articulated with the panache and the stylistic discretion that mark the whole programme.” ****
Geoffrey Norris – The Telegraph – 28 April 2012


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