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French pianists generally seem to be drawn to Brahms less than to other Romantic composers. Hélène Grimaud is an exception, having recorded the Sonatas Nos 2 and 3, all the shorter works from Op 79 to Op 119, the Cello Sonata No 1 with Sol Gabetta and the Concerto No 1 with Kurt Sanderling.

The Second Concerto gets a very strong performance here, with perfect balance between the piano and the highly responsive Vienna Philharmonic. Grimaud’s opening cadenza is broad and distinctive, and in the movement’s later passages she plays with a wonderful forward thrust. Elsewhere, there is much colour and sublety from all players, and the coda is grand. The scherzo could hardly be more exciting, with playing that often reminded me of Richter’s in his great recording with Leinsdorf. Pianist, solo cellist, conductor and orchestra are of one mind in the wonderful slow movement, which exudes warmth and never gets bogged down. The finale is played with all the requisite lightness and character, with no hint of its diffi culties and pitfalls. This performance is worthy of standing alongside the great ones by Richter/ Leinsdorf, Serkin/Szell and Fleisher/Szell.

The First Concerto, recorded live in Munich, contains much beautiful as well as passionate pianism. But the performance as a whole doesn’t quite gel for me, mostly due to slow tempos in the first two movements that seem to get even slower as they proceed. The conductor is to blame, but to judge from the bravos at the end, the performance worked well in concert. My preferred recording is by Fleisher/Szell.

CHARLES TIMBRELL Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing