A pianist friend of mine used to tell me that as a young girl she stayed at the same summer resort as Brahms , who played over to her the late piano pieces he had just composed . Bernard Shaw, certainly no Brahmsian, heard her perform them in early 1894, and thought them the ‘only part of the concert ‘ he enjoyed. Brahms can challenge pianists on the grandest scale with those gigantic concertos , but it is good to be reminded now and again how skilful he could also be as a miniaturist.
Perhaps the loveliest piece on the CD, and one that I can still play with satisfaction even if my technical powers diminish by the month, is the second of the Op 116 Intermezzos in E major . Brahms headed it with two words that occur rarely in his vocabulary: ‘Andantino teneramente’. I play it a little more thoughtfully than does Peter Katin , and I hope with the sort of tenderness that my friend could command even when over ninety.
The G minor Rhapsody of Op 79 is a total contrast . A passionate outpouring of great power , it demands the utmost intensity throughout. Here Katin is in his element , moulding the arching phrases with complete mastery. These recordings were made more than twenty years ago, but the sound has concert- hall freshness. The piece is a fine example of the new style of pianism that Brahms introduced to the repertoire .
Brahms was never happier than when writing variations . There are many sets for solo keyboard , piano duet , or indeed two pianos . Op 24 has for theme an aria by Handel from the first suite in B flat of the 1733 collection. Handel wrote five variations on the tune, which Brahms multiplied by five, adding for good value a concluding fugue that poses many a contrapuntal conundrum, makes teasing technical demands, and finds Katin on magnificent form.
Did you know Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’ was published 200 years ago! Well, it just so happens that one of the pieces on this album is inspired by Mary and the infamous novel. ow.ly/hMRF30iZp70
If you aren’t familiar with Peter Katin, our #albumofthemonth offer for March will give you a chance to introduce yourself to a top-notch #pianist you really should be acquainted with. #solopiano ow.ly/6hll30iH21s pic.twitter.com/IXfT…
Pianist Alicja Fiderkiewicz will give masterclasses in Poland this August. alicjafiderkiewicz.c…