Brahms (Sony Clas­si­cal)

Pasatiempo - - Tempos -

Of course, we’re still an­noyed that pi­anist Mur­ray Per­ahia can­celed his fall 2010 tour at the 11th hour, leav­ing Santa Fe high and dry. But then his mag­is­te­rial new all-Brahms recital ar­rives on CD, and how can one har­bor a grudge? Recorded this past June in Ger­many, the disc boasts clear sound that seems close to the source, rather edgier than what Per­ahia used to cul­ti­vate, verg­ing on the clan­gor­ous in the most force­ful pas­sages. Early on, Per­ahia was ac­claimed for his warm-heart­ed­ness, but he has grad­u­ally un­der­played that as his ca­reer un­rolled, and what we hear on this disc does seem to cap­ture his cur­rent sonic ideal, like it or not. Brahms’ Han­del Vari­a­tions, from 1861, oc­cu­pies nearly a third of the CD, and the pi­anist meets its pun­ish­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with pre­cise bravura, in­fus­ing imag­i­na­tive touches of sub­tle in­ter­pre­ta­tion to high­light con­trasts of tex­ture and ar­tic­u­la­tion. From Brahms’ mid-ca­reer we have the two pow­er­ful Rhap­sodies, op. 79 (from 1879), which re­ceive ex­plo­sive read­ings of sym­phonic mas­sive­ness. Even in late Brahms, Per­ahia re­sists the siren call of overly “po­etic” play­ing, and his in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the com­plete op. 118 and op. 119 sets (from 1893) of­ten prove ner­vous and propul­sive rather than dreamy. And yet, these care­fully con­sid­ered per­for­mances pro­claim bril­liance. You may end up lov­ing other Brahms in­ter­pre­ta­tions more, but these de­mand to be heard. — James M. Keller

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