Recital in Velenje, Slovenia (Brahms, Ravel, Liszt) 27.10.2016
Recital at the Festival Interfest, Bitola, Macedonia (Brahms, Mussorgsky) 12.10.2016
The 20-year-old Brahms nailedhis colours to the mast with his Op.1 Sonata in C, an ambitious piece with an opening unashamedly imitating Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” sonata. He aimed high and doesn’t disappoint: it’s a virtuosic, multifaceted effort. The Ballades are full of fascinating inward byways. Personal agony underpins the Variations, written in tribute to Schumann, Brahms’s mentor, then confined to the mental hospital where he later died. Oleg Marshev’s interpretaions are faithful, sensitive and upfront, enhanced by a fine touch and deep feeling, even if some of the tempi are a tad deliberate.
A glorious record in every way, the latest of many that Danacord has made with Baku-born Oleg Marshev. For anyone unfamiliar with Marshev, this release could be a wake-up call, for he is a Brahmsian worthy of comparison with the very best.
Oleg Marshev has tackled a very wide range of Romantic repertoire on disc, including a series of Danish Romantic piano concertos and the piano music of Emil von Sauer. Here he turns to music that is more mainstream, though with the exception of the Ballades these works are not as frequently heard as they might be. Brahms’s C major Sonata is in fact his second work in the genre (the first was the F sharp minor op.2). Like Mendelssohn’s op.106, the shadow of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” looms large in the opening gestures, but already Brahms’s individual voice makes itself heard, particularly in the slow movement variations.
The work demands a strong and reliable technique, and Marshev is fully equal to the task. He drives tie scherzo and finale along at pace and with unstinting belief in the score. In the slower moments he finds poetry without being sentimental, and has a good feeling for pace and structure.
The Variations on a Theme of Schumann are primarily tragic, reflecting Schumann’s institutionalisation during their composition. Marshev gives a very fine performance indeed, with the closing adagio particularly timeless and poised.
It is the Ballades that offer the greatest interpretative challenge here. Marshev does not quite eclipse memories of Gilels in “Edward”, but he is distinctive and sensitive throughout. Tempos are well-chosen and not too fast, and in the quieter music he allows Brahms to speak with eloquence and a gently unfolding narrative. The scherzo-like Third Ballade is not pushed too hard, so that its central section appears to unfold naturally, and the fourth points the way towards Faure’s harmony and textures.
These are extremely good performances, naturally recorded and well worth investigating.
Ringing authority in early Brahms from this gifted pianist
Having wandered engagingly down the country lanes of Sauer, Pabst and Richard Strauss, the prolific Oleg Marshev, Danacord’s gifted star pianist, is firmly on the motorway for his latest venture. The results are impressive.
Though at least six works preceded the First Sonata in C major, Brahms’s designated op.1 announced the arrival of its 19-year-old composer with unabashed self-confidence. After the expansive first movement, with its barely disguised genuflection to Beethoven and the Hammerklavier, there follows a set of variations on a German folksong, a fiery Scherzo and an exuberant finale.
Marshev handles the heavy chordal writing with exemplary clarity and a ringing authority reminiscent of Katchen (who, however, does not include the first movement repeat). The Four Ballades are thoughtful and sensitive, coloured, as are all these performances, by the slightly astringent tone this artist favours.
For me, Marshev’s finest account is of the Schumann Variations, based on a theme from Bunte Bltter, a keenly observed reading that underlines its tragic undertone (his friend Schumann was already in a mental institution). Variation 10 (Poco adagio) and the final dying pages of Variations 15 and 16 are touchingly done. I’d direct you to the track numbers if Danacord had allowed me to.
Marshev, born in the USSR and living now in Italy, has been on the international scene for some years; his US debut was in 1991. For Danacord he has made some 30 CDs, mostly of unusual repertory: the complete solo music of Prokofieff, Emil von Sauer’s complete piano music, four discs of Danish piano concertos, and so forth.
Marshev shows a strong affinity for Brahms. He has the strength and control to clarify the thick textures of the sonata beautifully. The quicker variations in the Schumann set reveal a great technique, while others call forth soft, romantic playing of great tenderness. Marshev has the equipment for virtuoso playing, but he is looking for other values, and his tempos tend to be moderate. The Ballades give further opportunity for him to explore wide range of moods and colors.
In short, this is a wonderful recital from pianist who should do more Brahms. In the early works he finds more musical values than most rivals and makes the music that much more interesting.
The Early Brahms
This is a wonderful recital from pianist who should do more Brahms. In the early works he finds more musical values than most rivals and makes the music that much more interesting – American Record Guide