BWW Reviews: Ian Hobson Plays Brahms - All of It!
THE BRAHMS PIANO CYCLE - DiMENNA CENTER - 10/8/13
The esteemed pianist Ian Hobson is giving New York an early Christmas present. He is performing the Herculean task of playing all of Johannes Brahms piano music in a cycle of fourteen concerts over the course of two months. To assist him in the task, he is bringing along an eclectic group of world-class artists. Fans of Brahms should be delighted because one would have to wait a lifetime for any chamber ensemble to get to all of these magnificent pieces.
The concert began with the Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major. Written while on a summer vacation in 1878, the sonata represented Brahms first venture into piano and violin territory. The results however suggest a mastery of the form which either Mozart or Beethoven would have envied, while at the same time remaining uniquely and immediately Brahms. The Sonata in G Major is a three-movement work that features numerous musical references to two of Brahms's earlier songs, Regenlied and Nachklang, from 1873. These songs were set to poems written by his friend Klaus Groth. The interesting and unique feature about the poems, the songs and to some extent the sonata is that they evoke rain in symbolic fashion.
Violinist Andres Cardenas accompanied Maestro Hobson in the sonata and provided a wonderfully lush and expansive reading of the work. His playing was velvety and deeply plumbed the intricacies and nuances of the first movement. The major theme moves from violin to piano and back and the interplay was adeptly if not crisply handled but as the piece moved on the connection grew deeper and smoother. The adagio movement was a thing of beauty. Mr. Hobson possesses the rare skill of bringing tremendous energy and dynamics to even the more quiet and delicate sections of a piece.
A compete retrospective of a composer's works requires visiting all of the catalogue, not merely the popular pieces. The Horn Trio in E Flat is not a favorite of this writer. It has always provided the impression of an experiment that was not fully thought out. Bernard Scully played wonderfully, providing a warm rich tone. While there are some lovely moments in the trio, there is altogether too much repetition and unison playing between horn and violin to make it consistently interesting. Only the final movement, which is a complete departure from the dreary first three movements, really succeeds. Mr. Scully finally had a chance to stretch his musical legs, and he did so, as the galloping melody provided a cheerful (and tuneful) finale to the piece.