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CD Review

Johannes Brahms

Piano Music

  • Ballades Op. 10 (1854)
  • Fantasias Op. 116 (1892)
  • Intermezzos Op. 117 (1892)
Burkard Schließmann, piano
Antes Edition Classics BM-CD 31.9009 DDD 64:54
Find it at Amazon UK

Schließmann's Brahms series continues with the Op. 10 Ballades and a brace of later pieces. I previewed them on tape a before the CDs were released; now they are here and in voluptuous sound. The German Steinway has a beautiful resonance, like the Bechstein, but with a more uniform treble.

The Op. 116 Fantasies are serious, emotionally charged miniatures. It is amazing what Brahms can compact into the concise ternary form. The harmonic language is proto-Janáček, without being so discursive and disturbing (a less frightening walk down The Overgrown Path ?). Schließmann's approach – generally slower tempos, rubatos – concentrates the melodic lines by dilating the sense of time. Playing slowly is the easiest way to impart false "meaning" to a piece, but in almost every case, Schließmann shows that he has something in mind. The Intermezzo Op. 116, #2 invites the listener into a dream; there is a sense of spaciousness, of moving within another realm. Ivan Moravec finds that all the time in his ultra-slow Janáček readings.

The last two Op. 117 Intermezzi, if one had a chance to put music to movies or TV, might show up in an episode of "The World at War." They evoke desolation, and somehow, peace – the same way the Bach adagio limns the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden (in the Glenn Gould-produced soundtrack for Slaughterhouse Five).

Schließmann's "Edward" Ballade rises from self-reflection to a carefully rendered climax that is massive, yet non-percussive. It's an impressive performance. The other Ballades are also quite nice. Stay tuned!

Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan