The second album in Lars Vogt’s Johannes Brahms concerto series with the Royal Northern Sinfonia includes Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto combined with a solo piano work, Handel Variations Op. 24, which was dedicated to Clara Schumann by the composer. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 is a romantic 4-movement concerto written two decades after its predecessor and one of the cornerstones in the concerto repertoire. This remarkable opus with a great number of beautiful solo passages and with a duration of over 45 minutes has been interpreted by numerous pianists since its premiere in 1881. In this album, Vogt performs the concerto conducting from the keyboard. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op. 24 for solo piano were written by the youngRead more composer in his late 20s. This work, which includes some technically demanding passages for the pianists, reveals Brahms’ profound interest in the work of the great masters of the Baroque era which served as a source of inspiration in the composer’s creative work. This set of 25 variations and a fugue shows Brahms as a great successor to the tradition of piano variations exemplified by Mozart and Beethoven.
Vogt’s approach is robust, shapely and highly rhythmical. He mitigates Brahms’s habitual textural thickness by refusing to pedal through staccato passages. Together with the orchestra, a marvellous plasticity of line is maintained throughout. This pliant rubato is the bedrock of their realisation of the music’s passionate ardour and vast sense of space. What a pleasure to encounter Brahms, so often interpreted as relentlessly earnest, here captured with his eyes brimming with joy.