A classic for our time

Interesting how one’ perceptions of any one composer change with the passing of time. In my youth I always found Brahms’ music portentous and heavy-handed. Was it callow immaturity? No doubt!

Now older and hopefully a bit wiser I openheartedly welcome the music of the master of Hamburg, in no small part thanks to András Schiff, a protean artist who has unflappably navigated the quiet musical waters of Bach and the often turbulent ebb and tide of Beethoven, Schubert and Janáček with equal skill and brilliance.

Aided by the conductor-less Orchestra of the Enlightenment, the Hungarian-born, Austro-British pianist is again reunited with fifty musical soul-mates. Playing on an 1859 Bluthner, Schiff summons a whole world of nuanced sonorities from the superb instrument: majestic in the opening of the Concerto No 1 in D minor, lyrically delicates in the Adagio, supple in the final Rondo

Equally at home in the Bb, opus 83 – Brahms’ second and equal in duration to his first – has an even grander, four movement construct which Andras Schiff delicately portrays with chamber music intimacy notwithstanding the wrongheaded notion that this no concerto but a symphony with piano accompaniment.

The Orchestra of the Enlightenment, uncannily much like the one that premiered much of Brahms’ music, exemplary responds, questions, answers, comments, and supports the soloist, sharing the musical tasks as elegantly as one could possibly imagine.

The ECM CD (32690) is available as a hard copy or as a download. Neatly engineered and accompanied by an informative booklet, this recording will surely become a classic for our time.

Rafael de Acha        All About the Arts