New Paths

New Paths

Brahms’ early piano works are often played as though they had been conceived by the portly, bearded composer of his later years, as opposed to the handsome young lion who had recently sent the Schumanns (Robert and Clara) into musical raptures. That is what makes Mari Kodama’s youthfully exultant, texturally nuanced, subtly pedalled takes on the First Sonata and the Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann so engaging. She dispatches the Sonata’s grand opening with a palpable sense of excitement—one can sense Brahms flexing his creative muscles, laying down the gauntlet to the rising generation of composers. She then captivates the senses in the Variations, relishing the music’s strong emotional contrasts and thematic ingenuity. Both here and in Brahms’ own arrangement of the Theme & Variations in D Minor from his String Sextet No. 1, one is more than usually aware of Schumann’s benign influence.

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