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Italian pianist Alessio Bax, winner of the 2000 Leeds International Piano Competition, is a player of refreshing depth. In an age of the hyper-virtuoso, Bax presents a Brahms recital that aims to show the contrasting sides of the composer’s piano music, from the autumnally ruminative to the overtly virtuosic. The former is beautifully demonstrated by the Op 10 Ballades, each chord carefully weighted and coloured. Signum’s recording faithfully captures the burnished quality of Bax’s sound. Even when playing staccato, he maintains a full tone, and in his hands the Fourth Ballade becomes a full-scale tone-poem. The Op 76 pieces seem a logical continuation, and here Bax reveals great awareness of the part writing. The two books of Paganini Variations pose few, if any, technical challenges for this pianist. Yet it is the reflective variations that truly resonate (the tender and intimate 11th Variation of Book 1, for example) and Bax revels, too, in the more exploratory second book.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing