CAPRICCIOS & INTERMEZZOS: Nada & Brahms ● Pianist Nada (pn) ● MEII ENTERPRISES ● CATALOG NUMBER 707129224088 (2 CDs: 123:58)

BRAHMS Organ Chorales: No. 7, op. 122, “Herzlich tut mich erfreuen”; No. 3, op. 122, “Herzliebster Jesu.” Klavierstucke, op. 76. Intermezzi, op. 117. Etude No. 1 in f after Frederic Chopin’s op. 25/2. Etude No. 3 in g after J.S. Bach’s “Presto” from Partita no. 1 for solo violin. Hungarian Dances: No. 1 in g; No. 2 in d; No. 3 in F; No. 5 in f#. Theme and Variations in d from the second movement of String Sextet, op. 18. Theme and Variations op. 9 on a theme by Robert Schumann. Sonata No. 2 in f#, op. 2.

This two-CD set with works by Brahms features an exclusive: two of Brahms’s organ chorales transcribed for piano. Pianist Nada, who has become somewhat of a Brahms expert after releasing three other all-Brahms solo piano albums, has adapted all eleven organ chorales to the piano and includes nos. 7 and 3 on this album (a digital release of the complete set may be in the works). Without the grandiosity of the organ—all those extra keyboards and buttons and stops—Pianist Nada has revealed a magical sort of modernity to Brahms’s late work. He seemed to be looking forward to the post-romantic possibilities of keyboard instruments, while writing and composing for an instrument of baroque complexity. And perhaps that is the most accurate way to explain my admiration for this collection of work—Pianist Nada has brought Brahms back to the conversation by drawing from her understanding of his past and his body of work.

For most reviewers and classical music aficionados, Brahms is not so unknown or mysterious. His symphonies are widely performed and, indeed, his solo piano work is comparable to that of those other “b” composers, Bach and Beethoven. But for the average listener (like myself), there is so much more to hear from Brahms, so much that truly distinguishes him from his contemporaries, like Chopin or Schumann. Before listening to this album, I had never heard the Intermezzi or Capriccios; I had not heard his Hungarian Dances; and I certainly had not known that he wrote organ chorales. But when I can hear an album, played and performed not simply with skill, but with an emotional understanding that translates into true expression, I am both glad to have the opportunity to learn something new and a little regretful that I had not heard this work sooner.

Pianist Nada has recorded an album that is not only a celebration of Brahms’s artistry, but a true aural delight. The recording itself has limited editing and therefore a very natural (less mixing, minimum reverb) sound that actually brings the listener closer to the performer. I relish this proximity to Pianist Nada, who is unafraid to bring out her own authenticity and unafraid to strip away a bit of the mystery surrounding the composer Brahms. Jacqueline Kharouf