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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55201
Recording details: December 1989
Abbey Road Studios, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ates Orga
Engineered by Peter Bown
Release date: November 2004
Total duration: 29 minutes 49 seconds

'… ce programme vient nous rappeler le vrai talent de cette Arménienne … Les Variations Haendel sont, et l'on pèse ces mots, tout simplement les plus belles qu'il ait été donné d'entendre: d'un ton, d'une maîtrise, d'un style fabuleux, d'un stupéfiant équilibre entre tension et tendresse, elles sont la perfection d'un bout à l'autre, bouleversantes jusqu'à la gigantesque Fugue qui n'a jamais été chantée à ce point' (Diapason, France)

Variations and Fugue on a theme by G F Handel, Op 24
completed in Hamburg in September 1861; dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday, 13 September 1861; the theme is from Handel's

Aria  [1'03]
Variation 1  [0'52]
Variation 2  [0'52]
Variation 3  [0'52]
Variation 4  [0'49]
Variation 5  [1'24]
Variation 6  [1'18]
Variation 7  [0'36]
Variation 8  [0'38]
Variation 9  [1'28]
Variation 10  [0'39]
Variation 11  [1'08]
Variation 12  [1'13]
Variation 13  [1'45]
Variation 14  [0'38]
Variation 15  [0'48]
Variation 16  [0'35]
Variation 17  [0'41]
Variation 18  [0'57]
Variation 19  [1'08]
Variation 20  [1'16]
Variation 21  [1'01]
Variation 22  [1'06]
Variation 23  [0'34]
Variation 24  [0'35]
Variation 25  [0'41]
Fuga  [5'12]

Other recordings available for download
Solomon (piano)
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The climax of Brahms’s activities as a composer of piano variations came with the Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel, Op 24. Completed in Hamburg in September 1861 and dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday, this is one of the summits of his entire keyboard output, showing him at the height of his powers. It was also—and hardly by coincidence—Brahms’s first major compositional statement following his 1860 ‘Manifesto’ against the composers of Liszt’s ‘New German School’, who were advocating the literary tone-poem and Wagnerian music-drama as the ‘Music of the Future’. Brahms’s Op 24 is a systematic summation of the mastery he had gained through intensive study during the previous decade. The choice of a Baroque theme, the strictness of the variations, the richness and scope of the piano technique, and the lavish display of contrapuntal learning in the concluding Fugue, all combine to present Brahms in the role of preserver and representative of tradition. Even Wagner saw its significance when Brahms played it to him, commenting grandly that it showed what could still be done with the old forms by someone who knew how to use them.

The theme is the Air from Handel’s B flat major harpsichord suite, published in 1733 (Brahms, the passionate bibliophile, owned a first edition). This dapper little tune has the balanced phraseology, the structural and harmonic simplicity, of an ideal variation subject. Brahms’s twenty-five variations confine themselves to the key of B flat, with occasional excursions into the tonic minor. But this apparent constraint, while imposing a powerful structural unity, provides Brahms with a framework on which to establish and explore a kaleidoscopic range of moods and characters. Several of the variations form pairs, the second intensifying and developing the characteristics of the first, while the last three create a climactic introduction to the concluding Fugue, on a subject derived from Handel’s theme. This continues the variation process in an altogether more ‘open’ form in which Brahms reconciles the linear demands of fugal form with the harmonic capabilities of the contemporary piano. The grand sweep of the structure, however, is never lost sight of, and the Fugue issues in a coda of granitic splendour.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Solomon – The first HMV recordings' (APR5503)
Solomon – The first HMV recordings
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 APR5503  Download only  
'Brahms: The Complete Variations' (CDA67777)
Brahms: The Complete Variations
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 CDA67777  2CDs for the price of 1  

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