"Philadelphia-born Peter Orth, a pupil of Adele Marcus and Rudolf Serkin and laureate of the 1979 Naumburg Competition, has made his home in Germany since 1992. His latest release for Challenge Classics is dedicated to forthright, heroic accounts of staples of the Brahms repertory.
The huge F minor Sonata of 1853, which can so often sound unwieldy and forced, here unfolds within the bounds of beautiful sound. In the Andante, Orth’s unerring focus on the long line lends the movement both shape and sweep. The tensile strength of the Scherzo moves with the stealth and agility of a panther. Acute sensitivity to Brahms’s polyphonic weaving of inner voices, characteristic of Orth’s overall approach, is especially prominent in the foreboding Intermezzo. Following this atmospheric preparation, the finale’s narrative thread is seamless, rendering the triumphant emergence into the sun an apotheosis that is both satisfying and inevitable.
By the time the Eight Pieces of Op 76 were published, nearly 15 years later, Brahms had turned his back on large-scale sonatas and variation sets, casting the rest of his solo piano music as miniatures. Orth makes a strong case for the set, whether in the charmingly ingratiating A major Intermezzo or the brooding F sharp minor Capriccio, both of which exhibit his sensitivity to Brahms’s polyphony. The jaunty cross-rhythms of the C sharp minor Capriccio brook no nonsense; and if the B minor Capriccio, historically among the most popular of Brahms’s piano pieces, might profit from a dash more humour, it is nonetheless compelling. The two Rhapsodies of Op 79 are robust and concise, the first driven and the second soaring.
Some Brahms aficionados may find these performances short on variety of touch or subtlety but surely their sincerity of purpose will be evident to everyone. This is Brahms that has been loved long and well."