with Fabian Müller, piano (Étude de couleurs)
Oehms Classics, 2017
There are few first solo recordings that equal Elisabeth Brauss’s Debut, a mesmerizing album that, with the performance of four piano sonatas, reveals to the world that a star is born in the youngest generation of pianists.
Brauss was born in Hannover in 1995 and started playing the piano at the age of five. She already participated in several competitions always winning the first prize. She also performs regularly in prestigious theatres all over the world.
For her Debut, Brauss has chosen Beethoven’s Sonata no. 7 in D major, Prokofiev’s Sonata in D minor, Chopin’s Sonata in B flat minor and finally a contemporary work by Michael Denhoff, Étude de couleurs op.115. Despite her young age, Brauss brings her personal touch in each work and gives prominence to details and feelings with consummate skill.
Beethoven’s Sonata opens with a lively, witty Presto that Brauss performs stressing to the utmost its jocosity. She plays with real zest and it is wonderful to hear how the notes seems to answer to each other like an echo. The following Largo e mesto and Menuetto are instead remarkable for their melancholic mood and Brauss’s playing is even more graceful than in the previous movement. Moreover, she adds a special brightness to the Menuetto, making it irresistible. The last movement, Rondo, shows the return of the original wit, but this time it is matured through the experience of the two middle movements, so that the finale seems to close the circle. In this way, Brauss establishes beyond any doubt her own accomplishment and intelligence.
Prokofiev’s Sonata begins in a completely different way and the gap with Beethoven’s can be heard even with wonder in the energetic Allegro ma non troppo that Brauss characterizes with sombre colours. Her playing becomes here more nervous and incisive, while in Beethoven it was soft and even idyllic in some passages, and tension increases while the movement draws to the end. The second movement, Scherzo, resumes and exasperates the mood of the first and Brauss is really riveting with her straightforward and refined vigour. The following Andante is perhaps the most beautiful movement of Debut because the elegiac but gloomy atmosphere is rendered by Brauss with simplicity and immediacy. The final Vivace, at last, ends Prokofiev’s Sonata with another sample of Brauss’s vivacious strength, even better than in the initial Allegro.
Chopin’s Sonata takes its nickname from the third movement, Marche funèbre, but in the first movement, Grave, Doppio movimento, Brauss is not distracted by the future and is intent on a spectacular performance in which she expresses fully her transport and passion. The same happens in the dazzling second movement, Scherzo, but it is definitely the far more quiet Marche funèbre the piece that really thrills the listener. As in the Andante of Prokofiev’s Sonata,Brauss gives prominence to every detail with no hurry and, thanks to her delicate touch, she is able to create the most magical atmosphere. Despite the vorticose and extremely well played Finale. Presto, to hear the end of the Marche funèbre is really sad.
In the last work, Étude de couleurs, Brauss, together with her colleague Fabian Müller, is really at ease among the silvery and ethereal sounds as much as she was in the warmer atmosphere of the three sonatas. Her performance is so passionate and attentive, so uncompromisingly committed to the exploration of the “colours” that it can be said that to each movement of her fingers corresponds a shade. Étude de couleurs is really an amazing epilogue.
Elisabeth Brauss has all the qualities to become a great pianist, if she is not already. Her ideas about these works may change with the passing of time and perhaps maturity and experience will give her new hints, but, in consideration of the level of the Debut performances, what will bring the future will be natural development.