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Rush Hour: Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1
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Quotes & Highlights

Hear Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 on YouTube.

Description

*Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15 (1854-58)*

The First Piano Concerto is a remarkable work from a young man who started out on his musical career as a piano player in the dives and taverns of Hamburg’s harbor. Its evolution was complex and its gestation long, due in part to Brahms’s self-critical nature and to the high expectations he would have to live up to in order to meet Robert Schumann’s prophecy about the then-just-20-year-old composer: He would “reveal his mastery not by gradual development but would spring, like Minerva, fully armed, from the head of Jove.”

Brahms revised the concerto even after its premiere in 1859. The concerto is symphonic in scope, lasting around 45 minutes. The rolling thunder of the timpani marks the concerto’s long and stormy orchestral introduction, whose mood, according to Joachim, was colored by events in Schumann’s life — his attempted suicide in 1854 and subsequent confinement in an asylum until his death two years later. The peaceful Adagio comes as blessed relief (“I am also painting a lovely portrait of you; it is to be the Adagio,” the composer wrote to Clara Schumann, Robert’s wife and Brahms’ platonic love). The Rondo finale with its two huge cadenzas brings this powerful and massively difficult work to a rousing conclusion.

In his book on Brahms, Burnett James wrote: “The D Minor Concerto is a direct and authentic transcript of Brahms’s deepest and most tortured experiences at the time of its production. It also marks the end of Brahms’s youthful romantic period. Never again was he to let himself go with such uninhibited passion; never again to wear his heart so unashamedly on his sleeve….”

About the Guest Artist

Pianist Radu Lupu is widely acknowledged as a leading interpreter of the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Schubert. Since winning the prestigious Van Cliburn (1966) and Leeds Piano Competitions (1969), Mr. Lupu has regularly performed as soloist and recitalist in the musical capitals and major festivals of Europe and the U.S. He has appeared many times with the Berlin Philharmonic since his debut with that orchestra at the l978 Salzburg Festival under Herbert von Karajan, and with the Vienna Philharmonic, including the opening concert of the 1986 Salzburg Festival led by Riccardo Muti. He is also a frequent visitor to Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw and all of the major London orchestras.