January 2006

The Eraly Brahms
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op.1. Variations on a Theme by Schumann, Op. 9. Four Ballades, Op. 10
Oleg Marshev (pf)
Danacord DACOCD 643

The 20-year-old Brahms nailedhis colours to the mast with his Op.1 Sonata in C, an ambitious piece with an opening unashamedly imitating Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” sonata. He aimed high and doesn’t disappoint: it’s a virtuosic, multifaceted effort. The Ballades are full of fascinating inward byways. Personal agony underpins the Variations, written in tribute to Schumann, Brahms’s mentor, then confined to the mental hospital where he later died. Oleg Marshev’s interpretaions are faithful, sensitive and upfront, enhanced by a fine touch and deep feeling, even if some of the tempi are a tad deliberate.

Jessica Duchen