Brahms Late Piano Pieces
I’ve written previously about these late masterpieces, op. 116 – 119, that are among the last pieces written by Brahms.
Brahms always was primarily a pianist. Whenever he wrote for other instruments, he got advice from experts, e.g. his friend Joseph Joachim for his violin works So it is not surprising that he wrote some of his most important but also most intimate works ever for the instrument he knew best.
I had been looking for a “definitive” version for a long time, and only some years ago fell in love with the album that the Russian pianist Volodos recorded in 2017 (see my review here). The only other version I reviewed here on this blog is by Andreas Staier on a fortepiano, only for op. 116.
You see, the issue is that Hyperion, the label that has Stephen Hough exclusively, doesn’t allow streaming, which is a key reason why I typically don’t buy his albums, as I can’t really explore them properly upfront, and also why I never reviewed any of his albums here, in spite of the fact that Gramophone is a huge fan.
But for my idol Brahms, it was worth the risk of GBP 13.
Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces – Stephen Hough (Hyperion 2020)
So, am I happy? To make it short, yes, very much. This is among the most unorthodox recordings of these work I’ve ever heard. None of these sound as I’m used to hearing them.
But honestly, it is worth the discovery. Once you overcome the initial surprise, you discover that Hough clearly has spent a long time thinking about these works, and each peculiarity is there for a reason. If you want to find out more about his approach to Brahms, check out this podcast about this new release.
I’m totally sold now. This is an album that I’ll go back over and over again, just because every single one of these little short gems is worth having a new look at them.
Here’s a Youtube example, so you can get an idea what I’m talking about. Let me know what you think!
In a nutshell, highly recommended! (My prediction is that this will make it into the Gramophone Award nomination list for 2020. Let’s see later this year if I’m right).
My rating: 5 stars
You can find it here (Hyperion Records).