- Intermezzo for piano in B flat major, Op. 76/4
- Intermezzo for piano in A flat major, Op. 76/3
- Capriccio for piano in B minor, Op. 76/2
- Capriccio for piano in F sharp minor, Op. 76/1
Reviews of this release by Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos, as with some of his others, are split, with a large group of favorable responses and some dissenters. It's often like this with interpretations that are brilliantly executed but fall at one end of a spectrum. In this case, you can certainly find more atmospheric and passionate readings of Brahms piano music. But among those that make you understand why the 12-tone composers loved Brahms the most, not the outer chromatic reaches of Wagner or Strauss, this one is very hard to beat. Much of the music is from the end of Brahms' career, and these pieces are famous for drawing you in with their complexities and never letting you out again. Sample the "Intermezzo in B flat minor, Op. 117, No. 2," where the tune is just one of the music's parameters: harmony, register, and dynamics are all tightly controlled, even as the music has a distinctive warm-hearted sadness. In Volodos' reading, there is an uncanny quality that every single note is in its place. At just over 54 minutes, the album is short, but you won't be missing the extra minutes after the feat of concentration that listening to this music entails. In places, Volodos makes Brahms sound a bit like Mompou, the composer whose music put the pianist on the map; it sounds unusual, even odd, but let it connect with you, and it's profound. Sony's production team, working at Berlin's Teldex Studio, creates a suitably inward environment. Very highly recommended.