Recorded on 03/16/1990, uploaded on 04/16/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor stands as one
of the foremost concertos for piano. Yet, the work was one that brought Brahms
much trouble. The concerto started life in 1854 as a Sonata for two pianos.
Malcolm McDonald described the work as a "Herculean compositional labour" for
Brahms. Indeed, even from the start the proportions of the works were set on a
grand, dramatic scale hardly seen since the time of Beethoven. Before long,
however, Brahms grew unhappy with the work and sought a larger, more powerful
medium-the orchestra. This may have also been in part to Brahms' desire to
fulfill Robert Schumann's hopes that Brahms would take from him the mantle of
leading German symphonist. If this wasn't Brahms' first attempt at writing for
the orchestra, it was most definitely a very early attempt. He sought much
advice on orchestration from his friends Julius Otto Grimm and Joseph Joachim.
However, Brahms was much dissatisfied with the work, feeling too inexperienced
at orchestral writing. It seems that Brahms only prepared an orchestral version
of the first movement, the second and third being written out for two pianos,
and the Finale was never finished.
Part of the problem with Brahms' symphonic concept was the
deeply personal nature of the work. It wasn't until 1856 that he struck upon
the answer: combining the resources of the piano and orchestra to create a
concerto of symphonic proportions not seen since the concertos of Beethoven. To
create the concerto, Brahms kept only the first movement of the symphony. He
discarded the slow movement and incomplete Finale. The theme of the Scherzo
would ultimately end up forming the funeral march second movement of the Deutches
Requiem. The concerto was for all intents and purposes completed by March
1858, yet Brahms continued to fine tune it right up until the first public
performance in January 1859. The work met with puzzled public reception, yet it
would ultimately receive high praise during Brahms' lifetime.
The work is on an immense scale comparable to that of
Beethoven's "Emporer" Concerto. The first movement alone is one of the
largest single symphonic movements Brahms ever composed. In this first
movement, Brahms resurrects the tradition of Mozart and Haydn with a full
orchestral exposition before the entrance of the soloist. The second movement
is one of Brahms' most introspective slow movements. The finale is an energetic
rondo beginning in D minor but ultimately giving way to an optimistic D major
ending. Joseph DuBose
Recorded in the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory.
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