Brahms- Piano Concerto No 2
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Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Piano Concerto No.2 in B FlatMajor
Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833, the son of adouble-bass player and his much older wife, a seamstress. His childhood was spent inrelative poverty, and his early studies in music, for which he showed a natural aptitude,developed his talent to such an extent that there was talk of his touring as a prodigy atthe age of eleven. It was Eduard Marxsen who gave him a firm grounding in the technicalbasis of composition, while the boy earned a living for himself by playing the piano indockside taverns.
In 1851 Brahms met the Hungarian violinist Remenyi, whointroduced him to Hungarian dance music. Two years later he set out in his company on hisfirst concert tour, their journey taking them, on the recommendation of the violinistJoachim, to Weimar, where Franz Liszt held court, a visit from which Remenyi profited,while Brahms failed to impress the Master. Later in the year Brahms met Schumann, againthrough Joachim's agency. The meeting was a fruitful one.
In 1849 Robert Schumann had moved with his pianist wife Clarato D??sseldorf as director of music, the first official appointment of his career. In themusic of Brahms that he now heard he detected a promise of greatness and published hisviews in the journal he had once edited, the >NeueZeitschrift f??r Musik, declaring Brahms the long-awaited successor toBeethoven. In the following year Schumann, who had long suffered from periods of intensedepression, attempted suicide. His final years, until his death in 1856, were to be spentin an asylum, while Brahms rallied to the support of Clara Schumann and her young family,remaining a firm friend until her death, shortly before his own in 1897.
Brahms had always hoped that sooner or later he would be ableto return in triumph to a position of distinction in the musical life of Hamburg. Thisambition was never fulfilled. Instead he settled in Vienna in 1863 and established himselfthere, seeming to many to fulfil, as the years went by, Schumann's prophecy, much to thechagrin of Wagner and his supporters, who saw the succession to Beethoven in a verydifferent light. Unlike the latter Brahms attempted no Gesammtkunstwerk and noamalgamation of the arts, as Liszt had attempted in his symphonic poems. To his friendsBrahms seemed the champion of pure or abstract music without any extra-musicalassociations.
"The long terror" was Brahms's description of hissecond piano concerto, a massively impressive work completed in 1881 and falling betweenthe second and third of the four symphonies in order of composition. Brahms had startedwork on the concerto in 1878 and finished the score in the summer of 1881, which he spenthappily at Pressbaum, near Vienna. For its first performance in November, 1881, thecomposer appeared as soloist in Pest, following this, later in the same month, withperformances nearer home with the Meiningen Court Orchestra under Hans von B??low, who hadespoused the cause of Brahms with the eagerness and enthusiasm that he had once shown forWagner, before the latter eloped with his wife Cosima, illegitimate daughter of FranzLiszt. Brahms played the concerto in various towns with the Meiningen orchestra. InVienna, however, where the first performance of the concerto took place in 1884, thecritic Eduard Hanslick, a firm friend of Brahms, could only speak with reserve of thecomposer's technical ability as a pianist whatever his admiration for the concerto itself,praising his rhythmic strength and masculine authority, and remarking that Brahms now hadmore important things to do than practise a few hours a day, a kind excuse for anytechnical imperfections there might have been in his playing.
The first movement of the Bflat major Piano Concerto opens with a dialogue between the orchestra andsoloist, initiated by the French horn. The orchestra adds a second important element tothe thematic material, to be interrupted by a longish piano solo. On its return theorchestra has a third item of significance to add, before the piano turns expansively tothe opening melody, as the movement takes its impressive course.
The second movement, a form of scherzo, in the key of D minor,is on the same enormous scale. It is followed by a slow movement, in which a solo celloproposes the first, tranquil theme, later to be varied by the soloist, before theappearance of other material, the pianist playing music of simple and limpid beauty abovea low cello F sharp, accompanied by two clarinets. This brief passage of quiet meditationleads to the return of the first theme from the solo cello and the end of the movement.
The concerto ends with a rondo that happily dispels anyanxieties that might have lurked in the more ominous corners of the preceding movements,its mood inherited from Mozart and Beethoven, Brahms's great predecessors in Vienna.
In 1844 the Schumanns moved from Leipzig to the city ofDresden. Robert Schumann had suffered intermittently from depression, accentuated by thefact that he had now become the consort of a pianist of considerable fame, his own role adecidedly secondary one during the concert tour of Russia that had occupied the earliermonths of the year. Dresden, where Wagner had recently become conductor at the opera, was,in spite of this, relatively conservative. Here Schumann set about the task of teachinghis young wife counterpoint, while he returned to his work as a composer with a certainrenewal of energy.
The Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano, withorchestral accompaniment, was a product of the eventful year 1849, the period that broughta republican uprising in Dresden, the hurried departure of Wagner, who had been involvedopenly with more extreme factions, and general disturbance, as the unrest was suppressedwith Prussian help. Throughout the months of tumult, during which the Schumanns had takenrefuge outside the city, Robert Schumann continued to write music, completing the presentwork during the later part of September, a month that brought songs and piano pieces.
The gentle Introduction to Opus92 allows orchestral melodies to appear through the evocative piano arpeggios,first from the clarinet, then from the French horn, before the piano too assumes a melodicrole. The Allegro appassionato is dominated by the opening figure from the orchestra, butlargely justifies its descriptive title, a work for piano with orchestral accompaniment.
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jando has won a number of pianocompetitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian PianoConcours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International PianoCompetition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas ofMozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumannas well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto andPaganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's completepiano sonatas.
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels
The history of the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels goesback to the birth of the Belgian Radio in the 1930s. After the well-known musicologist andpromoter of contemporary music, Paul Collaer, had become head of the Music Department ofBelgian Radio, the orchestra, under its conductor Franz Andre, gained a world-widereputation for its interpretations of the latest compositions of Stravinsky, Berg,Bartok, Hindemith and other 20th c