2014_cover_icsm002-copyL. v. Beethoven, Bagatelles Op. 126

R. Schumann, Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133

J. Brahms, 6 Chorale Preludes Op. 122 (transcription F. Busoni)



Ivo Varbanov, piano


The first release of Ivo Varbanov on ICSM Records (ICSM 002) features the last piano works by Ludwig van Beethoven (Bagatelles Op. 126), Robert Schumann (Gesänge der Frühe Op. 133), and the piano transcription of Ferruccio Busoni of 6 of the 11 Choral Preludes for organ Op. 122 by Johannes Brahms.

Beethoven’s Bagatelles, written three years before his death, were considered by the composer the best things of their kind that he had done, a true cycle of miniatures. Schumann’s Morning Songs, with their visionary intimacy inspired by the great German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, were written just a few months before Schumann’s tragic attempt to drown himself in the Rhine, due to his mental illness; his content is in stark contrast to his early piano works. As for Brahms’s Chorale Preludes, written  after the death of his beloved Clara Schumann, they are works of lonely self-communing and consolation, the ultimate fruit of Brahms’s lifetime immersion in early music. In these rarely performed transcriptions, Busoni has re-imagined them in the style of Brahms’s own late piano pieces.

More than a search for ultimate messages, this recording is a philosophical journey in the late lives of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms, performed by Varbanov in a minimalist but poignant way.

His playing has a quality of utmost subtlety, reverence, and seriousness of purpose — Scott Noriega, Fanfare (USA)


…it radiates the right sort of authority. ∗∗∗∗ —  Michael Church, BBC Music Magazine (UK)