This is Volume 1 in a new series devoted to the Works for Solo Piano by Johannes Brahms, starting with a selection of highly personal collections of Capriccios, Intermezzi, Ballades, a Romance, and Rhapsodies.
Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos has been known for high-powered Liszt performances and for gee-whiz transcriptions of works like Mozart's Rondo alla turca that seem to add an impossible collection of polyphonic lines to the music. All that could have been expected from this 2003 recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, was another big, powerful interpretation to join the others already out there.
This set is a remarkable bargain, containing all of Brahms's solo piano music, including such chips from his workshop as cadenzas for other composers' concertos and a series of strictly mechanical piano studies that nobody will want to listen through. No matter. Idil Biret has a firm grasp of Brahms's idiom, and she plays with insight and passion throughout the set. Although she doesn't startle with her virtuosity, she handles the considerable technical demands of the music with great confidence.
Following on from Volume 11 which has a superb Eroica Variations, Ronald Brautigam’s excellent journey through Beethoven’s complete works for solo piano continues in volume 12 with further variations. This time it’s a group from earlier in his career. The Dressler Variations were Beethoven’s first published work, and are pleasant enough though pretty light-weight stuff, as are the almost aphoristic Sechs Variationen über ein Schweizer Lied.