Notes and Editorial Reviews
Pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy masters Brahms' cruelly difficult Paganini Variations to the point where he downplays the music's burly bravura by choice rather than necessity. He shapes its textures from the bottom up, bringing bass lines and countermelodies into sharp relief while discovering new ones on the repeats. Similar scrutiny and clarification governs the pianist's Handel Variations. Although I miss the long-lined abandon and wider dynamic range distinguishing Kissin's more unfettered virtuosity in the Paganini set, or Serkin's unswerving cumulative drive in the Handel, Schmitt-Leonardy convinces on his own terms. He makes the most of the Variations on an Original Theme's ravishing lyrical passages, yet always holds back in the
Variations on a Hungarian Song's bigger moments. Fortunately, suppleness and lyricism are in bountiful supply throughout the Variations on a Theme of Schumann, as, for example, you observe in Variation 9's delicious dry-point articulation, Variation 13's shimmering runs, or Variation 15's gorgeously-spun legato. Fine sound, generous banding (each theme, variation, coda, fugue, etc. gets its own track), plus Brilliant Classics' rock-bottom price help make this release a worthy bargain.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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