THELast year, Alexandre Kantorow released a recording that included Brahms Piano Sonata No.2 alongside works by BartÃ³k and Liszt, and announced himself as a Brahms performer of insight and uniqueness. unusual. This all-Brahms new record continues where it left off, with the Four Ballads, Op 10, Piano Sonata No. 3 and left-hand piano arrangement by composer Chaconne violin in D minor by JS Bach.
In the Ballads, it is the dark, Gothic, almost supernatural side of the pieces that stands out particularly strongly. Repeatedly, Brahms sends the pianist’s left hand far across the keyboard, either echoing or working against a melody heard at a much higher pitch, and in Kantorow’s playing these bassline mumbles appear as something something disturbing, even subtly disturbing. In the loudest passages, it makes the instrument ring, squeezing the maximum resonance from all those vibrating strings while somehow maintaining the clarity and definition of each line. In the softer ones, his playing has a bewitching, sometimes dreamlike sweetness.
The first two movements of the sonata are entire worlds in themselves, and Kantorow’s performances take full account of their significance; its shorter fifth movement rhythm completes the work quite convincingly. His taste for spreading chords from bottom to top can be a bit strong for some listeners, especially when paired with the way he creates a rhythmic back-and-forth between the playing of his right and left hands, creating a small gap in which the rhythm falls, but everything is in the service of a wonderfully fluid and mercurally expressive game.
After that, you might think a one-handed piece would be a bummer, but the brilliantly crafted arrangement by Brahms de la Chaconne looks powerful in its relative austerity. Kantorow’s pause on the pivot chord when the music returns to the minor key has the abrupt effect of washing away the fullness and liveliness of the major key from the sound. It is a typically revealing touch of a pianist with a real affinity for this composer.
The other choice of the week
French pianist Nicolas Horvath reveals (Grand piano, two CDs) more of the music of HÃ©lÃ¨ne de Montgeroult, the pianist, composer and teacher whose fundamental influence on seminal figures like Chopin and Schumann – and most likely Brahms – is only now recognized. Horvath does a pleasantly light work of his nine keyboard sonatas, several of which are recorded for the first time.