Brahms: Late Piano Music – Eight Klavierstücke, Op 76; Two Rhapsodies, Op 79; Seven Fantasien, Op 116; Three Intermezzi, Op 117; Six Klavierstücke, Op 118; Four Klavierstücke, Op 119

Reviewed on Thu 28 Feb, 2019

Charles Owen finds contrasts aplenty in the Op 116 fantasies, imbuing them with a variegated but cohesive, suite-like quality abetted by articulate voicing, telling textures and an altogether eloquent sense of balance

If ‘late’ Brahms means ‘autumnal’ for you, Charles Owens’s intelligent, immaculately played survey may well make you change your mind. Even if he exaggerates a little by including the not-so-late Op 76 set. Finding echoes of Schumann’s ardour in its opening F-sharp minor Capriccio, there’s a delectably springy quality to its B minor sibling and a liquid elasticity to the first intermezzo. The Op 79 Rhapsodies are afforded a striking muscular immediacy, the G minor intense and intoxicating. Owen finds contrasts aplenty in the Op 116 fantasies, imbuing them with a variegated but cohesive, suite-like quality abetted by articulate voicing, telling textures and an altogether eloquent sense of balance. Autumnal melancholy puts in an appearance in Op 117, where you’ll find pleasingly plaintive prettiness to sugar and dilute the aching hurt of its finale. Although Op 118 is exquisitely done, blooming in an effusive Ballade before subsiding into bittersweet silence at its end, Op 119 somewhat disappoints, Owen reigning in necessary contrast, emotional effervescence and turbulent drama. Vivid sound, excellent notes.
–Michael Quinn