Alessio Bax Plays Brahms

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

Alessio Bax (piano) Signum Classics SIGCD 309 ****

Brahms’s Paganini Variations are doubly notorious. Performers fear their bloody-minded difficulties, listeners are prone to feeling taxed by a compositional style that can often seem to place too high a value on the étude-like nature of the writing – the description “Studies” is on the title page of the first edition above the word “Variations”. Alessio Bax takes what you might call a loose-limbed approach, always happy to prioritise musical shape over technical rigour. The same kind of flexibility informs his approach to the early Ballades of Op 10 and the eight Piano Pieces of Op 76. It’s refreshing to hear a pianist who has a grasp of tenderness and flightiness in Brahms as well as the more familiarly encountered German gravity.