J.Brahms, 4 Ballades, 8 Pieces for Piano, Paganini Variations,
Alessio Bax has a way of taking big, growling, potentially overwrought romantic piano animals—lately Rachmaninoff, now Brahms—and making them purr like kittens. The brooding depth of Brahms’ Four Ballades is transformed into steady calm, especially the serene murmur of the Fourth is sensitive, sentimental, and light. With no browbeating Brahms in sight (crude stereotypes all too often confirmed), Bax and listeners emerge irretrievable into the light with the second of the Eight Pieces for Piano, the ambiguously-jocund B minor Capriccio. The Paganini Variations—more afterthought than main ingredient—are individually tracked (convenient but avoid free Spotify: you get hammered with commercials). Bax’ edgeless tone is matched by the sound on this Signum release.