Jonathan Plowright - SACD

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Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 4

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 4


Brahms:

Ballades (4), Op. 10

Rhapsodies (2), Op. 79

Klavierstücke (4), Op. 119

Variations on a theme by Paganini in A minor, Op. 35: Books 1 & 2


The theme of Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin has tempted a number of composers to elaborate on it – from Liszt to Lutosławski and Andrew Lloyd Webber. In 1863, Johannes Brahms was one of the first to take on the challenge, with his virtuosic Paganini Variations. Playing the set has famously been described as requiring ‘fingers of steel, a heart of burning lava and the courage of a lion’ and possibly the demands that they place on the performer is the main reason why Brahms organized his 28 variations into two books of 14 each. For the fourth instalment in his series of Brahms’s piano music, Jonathan Plowright has chosen to place the two books at either end of the programme.

Between them we are presented with works spanning almost 40 years of Brahms’s life. Of the four Ballades from 1854, it is only for the first, the so-called ‘Edward’ Ballade, that a model in literature is known – a Scottish ballad about the murder of a father. The set has nevertheless been compared to the slow movements in Brahms’s three piano sonatas, composed around the same time, and all with literary references.

25 years later, Brahms had entered a phase where his works for piano were growing ever shorter and more concise, but with his Op. 79 Rhapsodies he made something of a return to the grandeur and passion of his early piano writing. This development was short-lived, however, and the following works for solo piano, of which the four piano pieces of Op. 119 from 1893 would be the last, have been compared to ‘the golden lustre of parks in autumn and the austere black and white of winter walks’. Previous discs in Jonathan Plowright’s survey have received critical acclaim worldwide, and the series has already been dubbed ‘the benchmark Brahms survey for some time to come’ in Gramophone.

“As we reach Volume 4 of this complete solo Brahms traversal, there’s no doubt that Jonathan Plowright and old Johannes are on the best of terms...Even Brahms’s most strenuous technical demands [in the Paganini Variations] hold no fears...But more telling still is the sense of playfulness that Plowright brings not only to the theme itself but to myriad variations.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - April 2017

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BIS Brahms: Works for Solo Piano - BIS2137

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Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 3

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 3


Brahms:

Klavierstücke (8), Op. 76

Waltzes (16), Op. 39

Klavierstücke (6), Op. 118

Variations on a Hungarian Song in D major, Op. 21 No. 2


Critical acclaim for Jonathan Plowright's two previous discs in his series of Brahms’s works for solo piano includes distinctions such as ‘10/10’ on the website Classics Today and top marks in Diapason as well as ‘Instrumental Choice of the Month’ in BBC Music Magazine. On his third disc Plowright presents the listener with two seemingly contradictory aspects of Johannes Brahms: the deeply serious, emotionally charged, but also meticulously constructed late Piano Pieces of Op. 118 and their precursor Op. 76 appear side by side with the unapologetic extroversion and scintillating verve of most (if not all) of the 16 Waltzes Op. 39, and the flamboyant Variations on a Hungarian Melody. Brahms’s fascination with Hungarian gypsy music stemmed from his friendship with the violinist Eduard Reményi, and found an outlet in several works, among which the Hungarian Dances are probably the most famous. The composer was also a friend and admirer of Johann Strauss II, and in his Op. 39 trespassed – with great success – into the domains of Vienna's 'Waltz King'. It is tempting to think that Brahms early experience as a pianist in taverns and restaurants induced him to compose this sophisticated light music, but there were also commercial reasons: he composed the waltzes for piano four hands and subsequently made no less than two arrangements for solo piano of the entire set.

“Plowright’s complete Brahms piano music for BIS…has now reached Vol 3, with all its intelligence, subtlety and power in full blossom…[these] sound totally fresh, as though a fully formed, cultured musician, unencumbered by conventional approaches or received wisdom, took up these scores for the first time in maturity. The results are often unexpected, yet always apt and never less than convincing…I have a feeling this is going to be the benchmark Brahms survey for some time to come” Gramophone Magazine, February 2016

“This third volume in Jonathan Plowright’s series of recordings of Brahms’s piano works lives up to the high promise of the first two” BBC Music Magazine, May 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2016

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BIS - up to 25% off

BIS Brahms: Works for Solo Piano - BIS2127

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Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 2

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 2


Brahms:

Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 2

Variations on an Original Theme in D major, Op. 21, No. 1

Intermezzi (3), Op. 117

Scherzo in E flat minor, Op. 4


The Second Piano Sonata is a hugely impressive work weighing-in with a playing time of almost 30 minutes and is accompanied here by a number of shorter works including the Three Intermezzi, one of the darkest and most beautiful of Brahms’ late piano works.

The BBC Music Magazine, reviewing volume one of the series, found “tremendous warmth, plus an intimate atmosphere” in the performances.

“Plowright delivers this highly charged musical argument with tremendous momentum, but is careful to follow Brahms's meticulous pedal marks, thus ensuring that none of the full-blooded textures sound bloated...[in the Variations] Plowright's refined pianism really comes into its own...Even more hypnotic is Plowright's wonderfully subtle approach to the Op. 117 Intermezzos.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2014 *****

“Already audacious and formidable, [the F sharp minor sonata] brims over with thorny obstacles and it takes a master pianist of Plowright's stature to resolve its complication into lucidity. This he does with all of his customary command...But the chief wonder of this disc remains Op. 117.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2014

“from the first few bars of [the Sonata's] opening movement, it’s clear that Plowright has got a perfect sense of the scale and the range of this tricky early work. As well as its technical brilliance, the sense of the boundless invention of the young Brahms worrying away at the constraints of sonata form is vividly present.” The Guardian, 15th January 2015 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Instrumental Choice

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BIS Brahms: Works for Solo Piano - BIS2117

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Normally: $14.25

Special: $11.40

(also available to download from $10.00)

This item is currently out of stock at the UK distributor. You may order it now but please be aware that it may be six weeks or more before it can be despatched. (Available now to download.)

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 1

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 1


Brahms:

Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5


British pianist Jonathan Plowright makes his début recording on BIS. Hailed by Gramophone as ‘one of the finest living pianists’, Plowright is recognised worldwide as a truly exceptional artist.

Brahms’s Piano Sonata No. 3 is heroic in scale, unconventional in layout and exudes high quality making it one of the most impressive sonatas since those of Beethoven and Schubert.

Brahms never wrote another piano sonata after completing No. 3 but instead concentrated on a series of large-scale sets of variations, among which the Handel Variations must be considered his crowning achievement. Completed in September 1861 the work shows Brahms at the height of his powers,

“His warmth and sincerity combine with a superbly assured and powerful technique to create one of the finest performances [of the F minor Sonata] on record...His Handel Variations, too, are subtly and economically inflected, never searching for easy glamour or effect...One could hardly wish for more and I can scarcely wait for further volumes from this pianist, adding that both the piano concertos positively cry out for his attention.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2013

“If Brahms ever wrote a symphony for the piano then the Sonata No. 3 Op.5 is very much this piece, and Plowright’s range of expression, his daring periods of absolute repose, extended passages of development and extremes of contrast deliver this impression as few other performances I have encountered.” MusicWeb International, 5th June 2013

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2013

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

BIS - up to 25% off

BIS Brahms: Works for Solo Piano - BIS2047

(SACD)

Normally: $14.25

Special: $11.40

(also available to download from $10.00)

This item is currently out of stock at the UK distributor. You may order it now but please be aware that it may be six weeks or more before it can be despatched. (Available now to download.)

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