This disc confirms Nicholas Angelich's reputation as the greatest Brahms player of his generation. The pianist's previous recordings of music by the great German Romantic, collections of solo piano music, chamber music, and the First Piano Concerto, were all magnificent, and this recording of the Second Piano Concerto with Paavo Järvi leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony plus the Klavierstücke, Op. 76, is at the same level. But the performances here are so magisterial, so authoritative, and so wholly and completely as one with the music that they irrefutably establish Angelich's supremacy in this repertoire.
Angelich is a great Brahms player because of his rich tone, subtle touch, robust sense of rhythm, dramatic sense of form, and exactly the right balance between expressivity and reserve. In the Piano Concerto, this means a vigorous opening Allegro non troppo, a propulsive Allegro appassionato, a tender Andante, and a wholly beguiling closing Allegretto grazioso. In the Klavierstücke, it means sense, sensitivity, and soulfulness like we haven't heard in these pieces since the glory days of Backhaus, Kempff, and Fischer. Recorded in warmly detailed and beautifully balanced sound, this disc is as good as it gets in this world.