Barry Douglas’s critically acclaimed series continues into its fourth volume. A celebration of Brahms’s solo piano works, each disc has been praised for its artistry and integrity. From Volume 1, heralded from the outset by BBC Music as “a triumph of Brahmsian thought, with playing that gets right to the heart of the composer”, to Volume 3, of which The Guardian described Douglas’s performances as “first-rate, with a real Brahmsian mix of toughness and slightly gruff charm about them”, the discs explore Brahms’s works in unexpected and creative ways.
Programmed as a stand-alone recital, Volume 4 begins with the monumental C Major Sonata; a work that Brahms published as his first opus despite the objection of Robert Schumann, who was in the process of recommending Brahms’s works to Breitkopf & Härtel for publishing. Schumann’s works also feature on the disc in Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 9, and the structure is repeated in Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, Book I.
Shorter character pieces intersperse these larger works, including the dramatic Ballade Op. 10 No. 1, composed after the Scottish ballad “Edward” from Herder’s “Voices of the Peoples”; two contrasting capriccios, Op. 76 No. 1 & 2; and three Intermezzi from Op. 76, 117 and 119.