Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor op. 15 - Maestoso
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor op. 15 - Adagio
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor op. 15 - Rondo. Allegro non troppo
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major op. 83 - Allegro non troppo
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major op. 83 - Allegro appassionato
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major op. 83 - Andante
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major op. 83 - Allegretto grazioso
Daniel Barenboim-Gustavo Dudamel-Staatskapelle Ber :
Brahms - The Piano Concertos
Daniel Barenboim and Gustavo Dudamel Record Both of the Brahms Piano Concertos
Recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie, the album is available August 7, 2015
Daniel Barenboim was overjoyed to be standing in the foyer of the Chamber Music Room of the Berlin Philharmonie on September 2, 2014. He had just finished playing Brahms's two piano concertos in the main auditorium. And now he was waxing enthusiastic about Gustavo Dudamel, who had appeared alongside him as the conductor of the Berlin Staatskapelle. "Whenever I had to play myself, I was able to count on him completely. And when I didn't have to play, it was a joy to see how well he works with the orchestra. I'm well placed to make this observation as I've been playing these concertos since 1958."
Barenboim has recorded Brahms's piano concertos on several previous occasions – and always with partners who have meant a lot to him. One such partner was Sir John Barbirolli, who accompanied him with the New Philharmonia in 1967 and who was an important mentor of his. His next recording followed two decades later, this time with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, who has been one of Barenboim's closest friends since 1956. Although performing both concertos on a single evening represents a tour de force, Barenboim has frequently included them in the same program, most notably with Sergiu Celibidache in Munich in 1991 and with Mehta in Berlin in 2002, when the pianist was marking his sixtieth birthday.
It goes without saying that with the opening theme of his First Piano Concerto Brahms also alluded to the beginning of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a work that is likewise in D minor. But in terms of the concerto's formal model, Brahms also draws upon earlier prototypes by introducing the soloist with his own theme, a theme that has not yet been heard in the orchestra and that recalls a device often used by Mozart. The second movement is an Adagio, the autograph score of which includes words from the Latin Mass: "Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini" (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord). In the wonderful pianissimo of the Berlin Staatskapelle under Gustavo Dudamel and in Barenboim's warm and full-toned pianism this sense of healing and comfort finds the most immediate expression.
Brahms's Second Piano Concerto begins with a melody in the unaccompanied first horn, creating a mood of friendly relaxation. The work was almost certainly conceived in May 1878 during the composer's first visit to Italy but it was not completed until three years later, when Brahms was staying at Pressbaum near Vienna. A four-movement work, it is one of the longest and most demanding concertos ever to have been written. In her memoirs, Brahms's piano pupil Florence May recalls telling the composer that the mere act of practicing the piece, with its wide-ranging intervals and pounding chords played at a very fast tempo, had caused her physical pain, prompting Brahms to reply: "But that is very dangerous; one must not compose such things. It is too dangerous!" Even so, Brahms enjoyed these dangers, which accumulate in the final Allegretto grazioso, one of the most carefree movements that Brahms ever wrote but which is also notable – in Alfred Brendel's words – for its "unsurpassable pianistic perversions".
For Daniel Barenboim, both concertos are loyal companions that bear witness to his own journey through life, providing a connection with Brahms himself: in the course of his life, Brahms played the First Piano Concerto thirty-five times, the Second Piano Concerto some forty times. And it was as the conductor of both these works – with Eugen d'Albert as the soloist – that Brahms bade farewell to the stage in Berlin on 10 January 1896.