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Brahms looms large in Adam Laloum’s music-making, reflected in his discography: two all-Brahms discs, including one solo album (soon after his first prize at the Clara Haskil Competition in 2009); one chamber (for Mirare), plus a smattering of appearances on various piano festival discs.

For a French pianist, the focus on the core German and Austrian repertoire (Schumann is another favourite) is unusual, as he concedes in the booklet interview with Jessica Duchen. His deep study of Brahms pays dividends in these poetic and thoughtful accounts of the concertos. Laloum certainly has the range and measure of both works’ expansiveness and is not afraid to adopt tempi to match. It is interesting to compare his accounts with Nelson Freire’s much-fêted Decca recordings: well over two minutes slower and tending more to the lyrical than the dramatic in No 1, somewhat fleeter in No 2 – particularly the first and third movements. Laloum’s interpretations, worked out with conductor Kazuki Yamada as they went along, are close to Stephen Hough’s (Hyperion); the latter edges the choice for his range and quality of touch. Laloum sparkles in the Second Concerto’s finale, however; and Hans-Jakob Eschenburg’s cello playing in the Andante is beautiful, placing it ahead of Joseph Moog’s recent Onyx account.

Since each concerto necessarily requires its own disc, Sony has missed a trick in not adding couplings. Both discs have a lot of unused space, and some additional music could have added musical context. Other companies have skimped similarly, of course, not least Hyperion (Hough) and Decca (Freire). It was not really value for money when those rivals came out, but it is lazy programming now by Sony.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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