Brahms Complete Piano Sonatas by François-Frédéric Guy – A Review

Brahms’ Piano Sonatas

I’m a fan of Johannes Brahms (see my blog’s subtitle). I’m a fan of his piano works, especially op. 116-119 (which are among his latest works).

However, until recently, his three piano sonatas never really touched me. I just didn’t get them. We’re talking about his op. 1, 2, and 5, so pretty much his first “official” compositions.

No. 3, op. 5, is the most well-known of the works. It is this piece that Robert Schumann heard when the shy 20-year old young man Brahms was at the time was introduced to the famous composer, which lead Schumann to write his famous article about Brahms being” one of those who comes as if straight from God”, and “He has a great future before him, for he will first find the true field for his genius when he begins to write for the orchestra”. 

Well, with hindsight, Schumann was obviously more than right, but it’s amazing he was able to cast such a judgment based on these works. So I always knew there must have been something in these works that I was missing.

My first version ever of op. 5 was by Radu Lupu (not a bad choice actually), and I very quickly also got the famous complete Brahms piano works box from Julius Katchen.

So I didn’t have a bad starting point, but as said before, I never really was drawn into his early sonatas.

But obviously, I try to check out as many new Brahms piano releases as I can. Recently, Geoffroy Couteau released a box of complete Brahms piano works, which got great reviews by the French press. I’m still making my way through that box, but so far I don’t share the enthusiasm of Classica and Diapason. Anyway, more about this later.

Brahms: Complete Piano Sonatas – François Frédéric Guy (Evidence Classics 2016)

Brahms Complete Piano Sonatas François-Frédéric Guy Evidence 2016 24 48

In any case,  I didn’t expect much when I checked out another French pianist, François-Frédéric Guy’s recent recording of the complete piano sonatas.

And I was very positively surprised! Guy actually specialized in German composers, especially Beethoven and Brahms.

So what makes this recording special? Basically, one thing, passion. I can really hear the 20 year old genius playing at the Schumann’s home in Düsseldorf in this album.

This album doesn’t necessarily sound like “typical” Brahms to me (if there were such a thing). Some softer elements remind me of Chopin, some more energetic moments even sound a bit like Rachmaninov (who obviously wasn’t even born yet when these pieces were composed).

 

There is a really nice example on Youtube:

 

This album is absolutely worth checking out.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Highresaudio)