St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Strauss. Brahms

Soloist: Nelson Freire (piano)
The Mariinsky Orchestra
Conductor: Valery Gergiev

Richard Strauss
Suite form the opera Der Rosenkavalier

Johannes Brahms
Piano Concerto No 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 83

About the Concert

In the years when Liszt’s followers were composing one-movement concerti and rejecting everything that seemed to be a survivor of or meaningless tribute to tradition, Brahms remained true to the classical canons. In all of his concerti he retained two expositions – orchestral and solo – in the first section without condensing the form, quite the reverse expanding it. Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto (1881) takes on Wagnerian proportions, its character could be described using Bruckner’s favourite term feierlich (triumphantly, festively), and later the main theme was to resound anew in Mahler’s Second Symphony. The first movement opens with a theme in the character of a hymn: Brahms clearly did not believe that human suffering was the only object worthy of being portrayed in art. The scherzo is unique: passionate, restless and with a dance section in the middle part. The slow third movement opens and closes with a cello solo. This melody later became the song Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer. The finale begins with a joke in the style of Beethoven – not in the main key. Brahms accompanied it with the remark “graciously” which he had previously used only in his scherzos. The official premiere of the concerto took place in Budapest, the unofficial premiere somewhat earlier in Meiningen when Hans von Bülow had given Brahms the opportunity to test his latest works live. Brahms’ piano technique had by no means become simpler, but it had acquired a sheen it was lacking. Unlike the First, the much more complex Second Concerto proved an instant “hit” and the composer performed it dozens of times on tour, swapping places with von Bülow at the piano and the conductor’s stand.
Anna Bulycheva

Age category 6+

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