It was in October 1853 that the 20-year-old Johannes Brahms completed his Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, while staying with Robert and Clara Schumann in Düsseldorf. The work had occupied him for some months – at least since the summer of the same year, when he had encountered Franz Liszt, and had heard his recently completed B minor Sonata. Strictly speaking, he may only have heard parts of it: according to some reports, Brahms fell asleep during the performance… It is tempting to see the younger man’s sonata as a response to Liszt’s work, but whatever the case may be, its heroic scale, unconventional layout and high quality made it one of the most impressive sonatas since those of Beethoven and Schubert. Significantly, Brahms never wrote another piano sonata, as if he had said as much as he wanted to say in that genre. Instead he would go on to compose in more concentrated formats, but he also wrote a series of large-scale sets of variations, among which the Handel Variations must be considered his crowning achievement. Completed in September 1861 and dedicated to Clara Schumann, the work shows Brahms at the height of his powers, confirming his position as the preeminent preserver and representative of tradition. In fact even Wagner saw its significance when Brahms played it to him, commenting that it showed what could still be done with the old forms by someone who knew how to use them. Performing these landmarks in the19th-century literature for solo piano is the British pianist Jonathan Plowright, hailed in Gramophone as ‘one of the finest living pianists’, and here making his début on BIS.
Performance **** Recording *****
"... Jonathan Plowright’s performance has tremendous warmth, plus an intimate atmosphere..."
Jessica Duchen - BBC Music magazine - April 2013
"...Jonathan Plowright’s brilliant new release on BIS is certainly one of the best recordings of the sonata to date. He has achieved a near-ideal relaization of a work oftern considered a triumph of musical imagination in the abstract but, in practical application, a virtual impossibility..."
Patrick Ricker - International Record Review - March 2013