Music: Classic and Choice

Brahms: Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel; Three Intermezzi, Op. 117; Three Intermezzi, Op. 119; Rhapsody, Op. 119 No. 4 (Pianist Van Cliburn, RCA). The Handel Variations are often thought of as a piece that only a pianist, or piano buff, could love. In one of his most appealing albums in years, Van Cliburn puts the lie to that. Leaping from one craggy Brahmsian peak to another as effortlessly as though playing Debussy's Clair de lune, Cliburn gives the work a warm romantic allure yet never loses hold of its classic-baroque underpinnings. What ingenuity and surprise Cliburn finds in...

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