David's Review Corner
, April 2020
Following on Lars Vogt’s highly acclaimed recording of the Brahms First Piano Concerto, he again conducts the Royal Northern Sinfonia from the keyboard.
It may be a very obvious comment that it brings an ideal rapport between the piano and orchestra, but here it also results in a highly desirable performance. The orchestra is a chamber ensemble whose home is in the north of England, Vogt arriving there in 2015 as the Music Director. Having immediately forged a bond with the ensemble, it has resulted in many outstanding public concerts, often directed from the keyboard. That manifests itself in one of the most perceptive and powerful solo readings of the works I have heard on disc. Though born in Germany, he sheds much of that Germanic approach to Brahms that has held sway on discs through the Twentieth century. The opening movement is driven forward on a wave of pure exhilaration, the orchestral solos immaculately handled. The session photo in the booklet that comes with the disc, shows the piano with the lid removed, and that does much to make the instrument more even in strength throughout the whole range in the opening movement. The second is often explosive; the following Andante, beautifully introduced by Steffan Morris’s cello solo, the whole leading to a joyous finale. My one reservation, regarding the disc as presented, is the simple fact that not everyone knows that the ‘Brahms Handel Variations’ is for solo piano, and neither the front nor the reverse of the disc makes that clear. Good sound, but a little lightweight in the woodwind. © 2020 David’s Review Corner