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Previous volumes in Jonathan Plowright’s ongoing Brahms series have gathered critical praise, and this, the third volume, continues the positive trend. BIS’s series goes head-to-head with Barry Douglas’ survey on Chandos, which itself has been praised by myself in these pages; in the final analysis, though, it is Plowright who wins out with his flawless musicality (as, indeed, Plowright’s contributions to Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series might imply). As an example, the seventh variation of the Variations on a Hungarian Melody reveals Plowright’s affi nity with Brahms at his most Innig; the celebratory final Allegro of this piece is beautifully caught.

Dating from a quarter of a century later, the Op 76 Piano Pieces are sophisticated offerings, and Plowright presents their elusive qualities perfectly, offering a consistency of interpretation throughout that finds a sense of mystery while still being able to honour the relatively robust Capriccio in C-sharp minor. It in an inspired decision to separate the Opp 76 and 118 sets of Piano Pieces with the lighter Op 39 Waltzes. The latter are given a sensitive account that matches that of Tiberghien (Harmonia Mundi), while Op 118 is given a performance of the utmost profundity, culminating in an otherworldly Intermezzo in E-flat minor.

Plowright keeps the collections together whereas Douglas’ Op 118 is spread over various volumes. Of these two pianists, Plowright is also the most in tune with Brahms’ writing. Icing the cake, his Steinway is stunningly caught by sound engineer Jeffrey Ginn. Unhesitatingly recommended.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing