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Brahms: Works for Solo Piano, Vol. 3 - Intermezzos, Op. 119/1&3; Op. 116/5; Sonata No. 2; Waltzes, Op. 39 / Barry Douglas, piano

Notes & Reviews:

Gramophone Magazine, January 2015
I can only wonder at his Brahms, which is superbly masterful in technique and musicianship (an indissoluble blend). There is no trace of distortion or egocentricity...Instead you hear an unfaltering commitment to exclusively musical matters and the results are as moving as they are exemplary.

The Observer, 26th October 2014
Perfect Gerontius tenors are rare. Philip Langridge, who recorded it with Andrew Davis in 1997, was the last. Stuart Skelton, so different in voice colour, fuller and more heroic but similarly human, modest and touching, is every bit as brilliant... A disc of the year.

Gramophone Magazine, November 2014
[Davis's] patient and scrupulously observant conception of the whole work evinces a selfless authority, wisdom and instinctive ebb and flow...Skelton's stamina, dramatic range and ringing, Vickers-like tone are a tremendous asset...Soar, too, sings with lofty projection and unstinting eloquence...Arguably best of all, though, is Sarah Connolly, who brings a deeply affecting radiance, sense of wonder and intelligence to everything.

Gramophone Magazine, October 2014
Truly sumptuous. Although the standout solos sound as young as you would expect from a group of undergraduates, corporately there is the strongly identifiable John's sound of adult professional choir in microcosm. The John's acoustics, too, are particularly good for this music because they buoy up, warm and upholster the sound of the choir.

The Observer, 7th September 2014
These heartfelt works are ideally suited to the open, expressive richness of the St John's, Cambridge choir. A Sad Pavan for these distracted times" is one of three pieces played by organ scholar Freddie James - a name to watch.

Sunday Times, 19th October 2014
Skelton's bronzed Heldentenor suggests a mature Parsifal, one of Elgar's inspirations. He is more visceral than the more cerebral British Gerontii, but his thrilling Take Me Away is surely just the Wagnerian sound Elgar wanted. Connolly's Softly and Gently - and Sea Pictures - rivals Baker's in beauty of tone.

The Guardian, 2nd October 2014
The performances are generally first-rate, with a real Brahmsian mix of toughness and slightly gruff charm about them; Douglas is at his best in the early Sonata, but his account of the jewel-like intermezzos - Clara Schumann described the first of Op 119 as a "grey pearl" - are most subtlely coloured too.

MusicWeb International, 2nd December 2014
Connolly's Sea Pictures is very good...the Andrew Davis Gerontius is a reading to cherish. He shapes Elgar's masterwork with wonderful sensitivity, revelling in the work's ethereal nods to the hereafter, but grounding the first part in the pain and uncertainty of the death-bed...Skelton is a fantastic Gerontius. He tones down the Heldentenor elements of the voice to stress role's vulnerability.

Choir & Organ
Sarah Connolly's understanding and delivery of the text is exemplary, her voice firm, consoling and assured - she is quite the equal of Janet Baker...Stuart Skelton is an exceptional Gerontius, vocally and dramatically: no phrase is ever sung without meaning and one senses a hinterland to his performance.

BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2014
Among the best Gerontius performances on record. Davis resists the temptation to make the work sound like a flabby, imitation Parsifal and the results are outstandingly convincing...[Skelton] has the heft and stamina for Gerontius's most dramatic moments. He's too intelligent a singer, however, to belt them out operatically...This Gerontius is a wonderful achievement.

Barry Douglas returns for the third volume in his Johannes Brahms's solo piano music series, the first two volumes meeting widespread critical acclaim. The selected Intermezzi performed here, works of wistful, melancholic reflection, come from the collections of short piano pieces Brahms published in 1892 - 93. Composed at aged 20, the Piano Sonata in F sharp minor is full of youthful, strident energy. The sixteen Waltzes, op. 39, capture the sense of joyful abandon often associated with the genre but their romanticism and nostalgia are uniquely Brahmsian.


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