Brahms: Piano Sonatas – No 1 in C major, Op 2; No 2 in F sharp minor, Op 2; No 3 in F minor, Op 5

Reviewed on Mon 25 Jul, 2016

Above all, François-Frédéric Guy gives the impression that he really loves Brahms’s piano music and is hungry for more.

To say that François-Frédéric Guy treats the young Brahms’s three piano sonatas to a range of colours more readily associated with the piano music of Debussy is an understatement. Yes, the gravitas and grandeur are also in place, but beam up from 7:45 into the Andante espressivo second movement of the Third Sonata and the handsome alliance of touch, pedal and the gradual swell towards an overwhelming crescendo make this loveliest of all Brahms codas into a sensual tone poem. How much more effective, then, the bracing scherzo, which leaps out of the darkness like an unexpected meteor. Guy is hardly less impressive in the first two sonatas, the Second (which was actually composed first) opening the disc with a passionate flourish, the scherzo this time like a pensive premonition of the more dramatic late intermezzos. Then there’s the ‘First’ Sonata proper, its opening an unmistakable tribute to Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, which Guy takes quite steadily, though the last two movements spring into action like a pair of colts impatient for the chase. Above all, Guy gives the impression that he really loves Brahms’s piano music and is hungry for more. Let’s hope for our sakes that he is.
–Rob Cowan