This double set of CDs comes with no information about the pianist or the music. Dirk Herten previously recorded Michael Finnissy’s arrangements of Gershwin, and is Belgian, but otherwise I can find scant background on him.

Brahms’ Klavierstücke Op. 76 and his piano pieces from Op. 116 onward are late works, written during his final burst of compositional activity. They retain some of the barnstorming of the early sonatas (strongly influenced by Beethoven) but this is incorporated into a subtler, more intimate style.

The music requires an ebb and flow, and Dirk Herten understands this. His technique is excellent, and there is no lack of dynamic shading in his playing. If you are detecting a reservation, it is this: Brahms is not exactly obscure, and these works have been played by the best. To my mind (and I’m not alone) the greatest artist to record Brahms’ solo piano music was the American pianist Julius Katchen. Katchen is well documented: he died aged 42 in 1969, but before doing so he recorded all of Brahms’ piano music for Decca. Listening to Katchen, the difference is staggering. To put it bluntly, here is another world. The music comes to life, full of passion and regret, storm and calm, grandeur and intimacy. Katchen plumbs depths beneath the surface to reveal the music’s emotional core. Herten can play, but after Katchen…


Composer: Brahms
Composition: Klavierstücke, Rhapsodies et al
Performer: Dirk Herten p
Catalogue Number: White 9789491980626 (2CD)