Christian Kohn / Silke-Thora Matthies

Brahms: Four Hand Piano Music, Vol. 14 - Piano Quartet No. 2; Five Waltzes

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Is there really a need for 14 discs dedicated to Brahms' four-hand piano music? One can concede the need for discs of his works originally conceived for this medium -- the Hungarian Dances, for example -- and for his works conceived for this as well as other mediums -- the Haydn Variations, for example -- and possibly even for his transcriptions of works originally conceived for other mediums that nevertheless reveal the inner workings of the music in this medium -- the symphonies, for example. But can one concede the need for a recording of a transcription of the Piano Quartet in A major, a work of lucid textures and pellucid beauty? While one conceivably could, one could not concede the need for this particular recording by the four-hand piano team of Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian Kohn. Matthies and Kohn are technically adept and thoroughly sympathetic players and there is clearly a lot of love and affection in their performances. But they lack the energy, the muscle, and the depth to make a case for the music and their performance is a small-scale, black and white snapshot of a large-scale, vividly colored painting. Matthies and Kohn's performances of Brahms' five transcriptions of his Waltzes, Op. 39, are much more convincing because these are works conceived and executed on a more intimate scale. For listeners who have to have everything Brahms ever set his hand to, this disc, like the previous 13 discs in the series, will be mandatory. For nearly everybody else, they will be negligible. Naxos' sound is clean, but a bit too distant.

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