Refreshingly intimate Brahms from a refined player
Anthony Marwood’s Brahms is like no other. The centralist viewpoint, familiar from countless recordings, is that these sonatas are chamber music writ large, requiring generous quantities of luxurious tone, with the emphasis on nostalgia-laden espressivo, the upper end of the dynamic spectrum, and a tendency towards long-phrased washes of sound. By contrast, Marwood and his endlessly responsive accompanist Aleksandar Madžar play with a chamber-room intimacy, exploring with micro-fine sensitivity the music’s expressive ebb and flow via an exquisitely subtle range of tonal colours and dynamics. The effect is enhanced by the lucid, gently cushioned engineering that places the players at a discreet distance from the listener.
Marwood takes nothing for granted, exchanging the generic interpretative gestures of the 19th-century tradition for an engaging spontaneity, timbral purity and refinement of phrasing that relieves these glorious scores of the heavy emotional burden they are almost invariably expected to carry. His quicksilver musical responses leave most other players sounding inflectionally generalised, and as a result, each sonata is experienced more as a series of half-whispered correspondences than a bracingly exultant, long-range narrative. Brahms emerges here less a portly, generously whiskered old gent than a vibrant personality in the full flush of life.