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ClassicsOnline Home » BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 / SCHUMANN, R.: Introduction and Allegro appassinato, Op. 92
"satisfying and thoroughly sympathetic and musical"
Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897) Piano Concerto No.2 in B Flat
Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833, the son of a
double-bass player and his much older wife, a seamstress. His childhood was spent in
relative 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 at
the age of eleven. It was Eduard Marxsen who gave him a firm grounding in the technical
basis of composition, while the boy earned a living for himself by playing the piano in
In 1851 Brahms met the Hungarian violinist Remenyi, who
introduced him to Hungarian dance music. Two years later he set out in his company on his
first concert tour, their journey taking them, on the recommendation of the violinist
Joachim, 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, again
through Joachim's agency. The meeting was a fruitful one.
In 1849 Robert Schumann had moved with his pianist wife Clara
to Düsseldorf as director of music, the first official appointment of his career. In the
music of Brahms that he now heard he detected a promise of greatness and published his
views in the journal he had once edited, the >Neue
Zeitschrift für Musik, declaring Brahms the long-awaited successor to
Beethoven. In the following year Schumann, who had long suffered from periods of intense
depression, attempted suicide. His final years, until his death in 1856, were to be spent
in 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 able
to return in triumph to a position of distinction in the musical life of Hamburg. This
ambition was never fulfilled. Instead he settled in Vienna in 1863 and established himself
there, seeming to many to fulfil, as the years went by, Schumann's prophecy, much to the
chagrin of Wagner and his supporters, who saw the succession to Beethoven in a very
different light. Unlike the latter Brahms attempted no Gesammtkunstwerk and no
amalgamation of the arts, as Liszt had attempted in his symphonic poems. To his friends
Brahms seemed the champion of pure or abstract music without any extra-musical
"The long terror" was Brahms's description of his
second piano concerto, a massively impressive work completed in 1881 and falling between
the second and third of the four symphonies in order of composition. Brahms had started
work on the concerto in 1878 and finished the score in the summer of 1881, which he spent
happily at Pressbaum, near Vienna. For its first performance in November, 1881, the
composer appeared as soloist in Pest, following this, later in the same month, with
performances nearer home with the Meiningen Court Orchestra under Hans von Bülow, who had
espoused the cause of Brahms with the eagerness and enthusiasm that he had once shown for
Wagner, before the latter eloped with his wife Cosima, illegitimate daughter of Franz
Liszt. Brahms played the concerto in various towns with the Meiningen orchestra. In
Vienna, however, where the first performance of the concerto took place in 1884, the
critic Eduard Hanslick, a firm friend of Brahms, could only speak with reserve of the
composer'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 had
more important things to do than practise a few hours a day, a kind excuse for any
technical imperfections there might have been in his playing.
The first movement of the B
flat major Piano Concerto opens with a dialogue between the orchestra and
soloist, initiated by the French horn. The orchestra adds a second important element to
the thematic material, to be interrupted by a longish piano solo. On its return the
orchestra has a third item of significance to add, before the piano turns expansively to
the 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 cello
proposes the first, tranquil theme, later to be varied by the soloist, before the
appearance of other material, the pianist playing music of simple and limpid beauty above
a low cello F sharp, accompanied by two clarinets. This brief passage of quiet meditation
leads 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 any
anxieties 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 of
Dresden. Robert Schumann had suffered intermittently from depression, accentuated by the
fact that he had now become the consort of a pianist of considerable fame, his own role a
decidedly secondary one during the concert tour of Russia that had occupied the earlier
months 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 teaching
his young wife counterpoint, while he returned to his work as a composer with a certain
renewal of energy.
The Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano, with
orchestral accompaniment, was a product of the eventful year 1849, the period that brought
a republican uprising in Dresden, the hurried departure of Wagner, who had been involved
openly with more extreme factions, and general disturbance, as the unrest was suppressed
with Prussian help. Throughout the months of tumult, during which the Schumanns had taken
refuge outside the city, Robert Schumann continued to write music, completing the present
work during the later part of September, a month that brought songs and piano pieces.
The gentle Introduction to Opus
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jandó has won a number of piano
competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano
Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano
Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas of
Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann
as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and
Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels
The history of the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels goes
back to the birth of the Belgian Radio in the 1930s. After the well-known musicologist and
promoter of contemporary music, Paul Collaer, had become head of the Music Department of
Belgian Radio, the orchestra, under its conductor Franz Andre, gained a world-wide
reputation for its interpretations of the latest compositions of Stravinsky, Berg,
Bartók, Hindemith and other 20th century composers. The orchestra gave the first European
performance of Bart6k's Concerto for Orchestra in Paris and the first West European
performance of the Fourth Symphony by Shostakovich, and has, over the years, worked with
many leading conductors, from Pierre Boulez, Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud to Lorin
Maazel and Zubin Mehta.
In 1978 the Radio Symphony Orchestra was dissolved and both the
Flemish and the French Radio divisions set up their own symphony orchestras. The Flemish
network soon had a new orchestra, the BRT Philharmonic, with some 90 musicians and Fernand
Terby became its principal conductor from 1978 to 1988. Since 1988, Alexander Rahbari has
been the principal conductor and musical director of the new BRT Philharmonic Orchestra.
Alexander Rahbari was born in Iran in 1948 and was trained as a
conductor at the Vienna Music Academy as a pupil of von Einem, Swarowsky and bsterreicher.
On his return to Iran he was appointed director of the Teheran Conservatory of Music and
took a leading position in the cultural development of his country .In 1977 he moved to
Europe, winning first prize in the Besançon International Conductors' Competition and the
Geneva silver medal. In the 1986-87 season he appeared for the first time with the BRT
Philharmonic and in September 1988, accepted appointment as principal conductor.
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BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 / SCHUMANN, R.: Intro...