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Murray Perahia
To the Artist Murray Perahia

Brahms: Händel Variations


Murray Perahia's new recording presents works from three creative phases of Johannes Brahms. With the Handel Variations, the pianist manages to create a perfect link between Bach and the music of the Romantic period. This early composition spans both eras - its theme is quintessentially Baroque, while its variations are deeply Romantic in gesture. Perahia discovers clear parallels in the Handel Variations to Bach's Goldberg Variations: Both are substantial works that testify to the enormous intellectual power of their creators. Moreover, Brahms's Handel Variations - although unmistakably Romantic - are closely oriented to the thematic material and paired structure that is also typical of Bach's variations. Further included on this album are piano works from Brahms' middle and late career, the two Rhapsodies, Op. 79, and the introspective Piano Pieces, Op. 118 and Op. 119, from his later years. For the CD, Murray Perahia was awarded the Echo Klassik 2011 for Instrumentalist of the Year. "Listening to the Handel Variations, one can't help but be delighted: such fine piano playing, considered in every detail but never pedantically obtuse, mastering all the difficulties with serene aplomb and bold verve! [...] If, like Perahia, one pays close attention to all this, but does not dwell on it, the classicism of this music acquires an animated lightness of conflict between system stabilization and jaunty detail. Perahia plays the variations orchestrally, which does not mean thick and loud. Rather, it is about the simultaneity of different forms of articulation and coloration. [...] Perahia also brings out the symphonic-dramatic features of the two Rhapsodies op. 79 with considered power." (FAZ) "The most impressive thing about this new recording by Murray Perahia is the sense of time. Every variation and every single piece locks into its tempo and so you hear it properly. Perahia's stylistic confidence is definitely a phenomenon, as what he touches overwhelms under his hands with perfect musical conviction. His style of music making takes back his own ego and gives the music its place. The sound of the grand piano is portrayed with pleasant directness and the clear space around the instrument." Classical CD of the Month (Audio) "Murray Perahia presents his first Brahms album in 2 decades. And he manages to express all aspects of these works, which so artfully connect the musical epochs, and to unite them into a coherent, stirring whole. The baroque lover, the classicist and the romantic, the strict structural thinker and the emotional rhapsode in Brahms, all come into their own without getting in each other's way. 

The result is of a clear-eyed naturalness and adventurousness in the most subtle areas, which captivate the more one immerses oneself in this music. A CD that one can probably listen to a hundred times without tiring of its content. Perahia knows how to build wide arches, to open magical spaces, to make each work emerge irresistibly as a whole in its organic process. He consistently maintains the invisible balance between physical pleasure, emotional intensity and intellectual penetration, never losing it in any direction, never missing any aspect. Therefore, its refined qualities can only be fathomed in intense listening, without ever becoming categorizable. It sounds, so to speak, completely calculated and at the same time so immediate and alive, as if it were just coming into being for the first time. The sound engineering has also succeeded in a masterpiece of richness of shades and spatial presence. In all the pieces, a reference recording!" (Stereoplay) "CD of the Month- Music 5 Stars, Sound 4 Stars" (Stereo, 3/2011) "The Classical CD of the Month" (Rondo) "Perahia is able to investigate the emotional worlds, the narrative in these pieces in such an intoxicatingly honest and captivating way that one hardly notices him as a performer anymore, but almost wants to believe that he just created this work out of nothing. Perhaps it takes a pianist like Perahia, who has accumulated so much life experience, with highs and lows, to be able to perform the late piano works of Brahms with such emotional penetration [...] Perahia breathes these works, does not exaggerate the tempi, illuminates more than he wants to create a feast of intoxication. And of course, hovering over it all is Perahia's typically captivating technique, impeccable transparency of voices, deft use of pedal - all to the benefit of the sonic result. A fabulous recording, one of Perahia's best in years!" (Piano News, CD of the Double Month) "Pianist Murray Perahia has been setting standards at the piano for decades, for example with Bach interpretations that are unparalleled in transparency, beauty of sound and musicality. Now he presents the "Handel Variations" op. 24 by Johannes Brahms, enriching the classical music market with a new reference recording of this very demanding piano work. [...] Perahia also moves musically accomplished in the lyrical sphere of the intimate late piano pieces op. 118 and 119." (Westdeutsche Zeitung) "Perahia plays the Handel Variations, the Piano Pieces op. 118 and 119 and hits the meaning with every single note. Big is this!" (Abendzeitung) "Murray Perahia is unique in his ability to bring musical structure to life in the most lucid way. Everything sounds, so to speak, logical and at the same time free. [...] Nothing blurs here, it has poetry and passion, and always unquestionable consistency. A reference recording, also sound-wise." (Crescendo) "Murray Perahia has long been a trademark in the music business. Born in New York in 1947, the pianist is considered by many to be the pianist of our day with his playing style, a fine synthesis of sensitivity and fidelity to the text. It is therefore no wonder that his current Brahms CD has been met with great praise everywhere. And - the unpathetic interpreter once again fulfills the highest expectations. Perahia consistently brings Brahms' Handel Variations close to Bach's Goldberg Variations. This also applies to the intensity of the performance. Here the now 62-year-old shines with a sublime, wonderfully sonorous level - poignant. [...] The recording from Hall 1 of the Funkhaus Berlin convinces with transparent and pleasantly colorful sound shaping. This also benefits Brahms' more lyrical small forms. The two Rhapsodies op. 79, six Piano Pieces op. 118 and the four Piano Pieces op. 119 make this new recording definitively a highlight of the Brahms discography." (Badische Zeitung) "Perahia now proves, as it were, the birth of Romanticism from the spirit of the Baroque. In the Handel Variations by Brahms, the master pianist with his narrative sensitivity and liveliness creates a wonderfully fine balance between the clarity of voice leading and the freedom of feeling. His Brahms playing seems entirely unaffected and sincere, allowing for a highly tense listening experience full of moments of happiness. Bold and stirring, he shapes the Rhapsodies op. 79, spiritually detached the late works of the Piano Pieces op. 118 and 119." (Concerti Hamburg)


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