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Hyperion Records

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Rainy Weather on the Elbe (1902) by Max Liebermann (1847-1935)
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67777
Recording details: December 2009
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: October 2010
Total duration: 9 minutes 58 seconds

'Ohlsson's playing not only persuaded me to appreciate the two Op 21 works but actually to listen to both discs all the way through in a single sitting. He is that good … this is a great Brahms recording that elevates and illuminates the music with a lightness of touch and heart that eludes many (yet he can darken the tone when required) … [Paganini Variations] perhaps the most musical performance on disc in recent years' (Gramophone)

'An authoritative new collection of all six Brahms essays in theme-and-variations composition … he's a born Brahmsian, equipped at the highest level with the necessary speed and power, the muscular strength and facility of finger tempered by breadth of outlook and solidity of intellect … Ohlsson's new Brahms conspectus adds up to an altogether remarkable achievement' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Ohlsson's muscular performance does not ignore the yearning that lies beneath the surface' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Garrick Ohlsson has the technical resources to tackle the particular challenges that Brahms attached to Paganini's famous theme' (The Irish Times)

'Ohlsson’s many musical insights and his magnificent technical skills make this a release demanding to be heard' (ClassicalSource.com)

Theme and variations in D minor
composer
after the second movement of Brahms's String Sextet No 1 in B flat major, Op 18; transcribed for Clara Schumann to mark her birthday on 13 September 1860

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Having heard a play-through of the noble slow movement of his String Sextet in B flat major, Op 18, Clara Schumann begged Brahms for a piano transcription of this movement, and he complied with the Theme and Variations in D minor in time for her birthday on 13 September 1860. Though this piano arrangement remained unpublished until after Brahms’s death, he was very fond of it. The stern, rather archaic theme and the rigid adherence of all the ensuing six variations to the theme’s dimensions, including repeats, suggest a debt to Bach, and especially to his D minor Chaconne for solo violin. But equally these variations so transform the theme, and are so rich in their contrasted sonorities, that they completely transcend the strictness of the form. The most striking inventions are probably the third variation, with its turbulent ebb and flow of rapid scales; the magniloquent fourth, which gives the theme its most impassioned expression in the major; and the sixth, which serves as a spectral coda, the theme returning as a mere shadow of itself.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010

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