Chloe Chua

Chloe Chua
Chloe Chua (b. 2007, Singapore), Junior First Prize (with 10-year-old Christian Li from Australia) at the 2018 Menuhin Competition in Geneva. Photo by Carolina Negel

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major – Marc-André Hamelin, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

The Canadian virtuoso pianist Marc-André Hamelin plays and the distinguished Polish conductor Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.83. As encore, Marc-André Hamelin plays Brahms' Intermezzo Op.117 No.2 in B flat minor. Recorded at Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw, Poland, on December 9, 2016.

Ο Marc-André Hamelin ερμηνεύει το Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο αρ. 2 σε Σι ύφεση μείζονα, έργο 83, του Γιοχάνες Μπραμς. Στο encore, ο διάσημος Καναδός πιανίστας ερμηνεύει το δεύτερο, σε Σι ύφεση ελάσσονα, από τα τρία Intermezzi του έργου 117, και πάλι του Μπραμς. Τη Φιλαρμονική Ορχήστρα της Βαρσοβίας διευθύνει ο διακεκριμένος Πολωνός μαέστρος Jacek Kaspszyk. Η συναυλία δόθηκε στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής της Φιλαρμονικής της Βαρσοβίας στις 9 Δεκεμβρίου 2016.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

♪ Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.83 (1878-1881)

i. Allegro non troppo [0:55]*
ii. Allegro appassionato [18:20]
iii. Andante [28:12]
iii. Allegretto grazioso [40:39]


Johannes Brahms

♪ Intermezzo Op.117 No.2 in B flat minor (1892) [52:59]

Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Jacek Kaspszyk

Director: Tomasz Decyk

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland, December 9, 2016

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each track

Sketches for the Concerto were begun in 1878, immediately after the composer's return from his first Italian visit, on which he was accompanied to Rome, Naples, and Sicily by his friend and cultural mentor, the Viennese surgeon Dr. Theodor Billroth. Some sketches completed, he set the Piano Concerto aside to work on his Violin Concerto for Joseph Joachim. Op.83 was completed in 1881, after his second Italian visit, the itinerary this time including Venice, Florence, Siena, and Orvieto.

The premiere of the B flat Concerto took place in Budapest on November 9, 1881, with the composer as soloist and another distinguished pianist-composer, Ferenc Erkel, on the podium. Franz Liszt, with whom Brahms had had some less than pleasant encounters in the past and who was in the audience, was uncharacteristically effusive in his praise of the Concerto. The first Vienna performance, by Brahms with the Meiningen Orchestra under Hans von Bülow, took place three weeks later and was on that occasion heard by the celebrated critic – and Brahms partisan – Eduard Hanslick, whose enthusiasm for the work did not, however, constrain him from declaring that as a pianist Brahms' best days were behind him.

The Concerto is dedicated not to any of the great personages of Brahms' acquaintance but to the Hamburg piano pedagogue Eduard Marxsen, who took over the musical training of the 10-year-old Brahms, rescuing him from the prospect of a tour of the United States as a child prodigy. Marxsen also encouraged his young charge's predilection for improvising at the piano, a step that preceded his beginning to compose in earnest at the age of 14.

The B flat Concerto dates from the start of Brahms' ripest maturity, the period when his fame had reached a peak throughout Europe and his physical image as we know it best was fixed: bearded and corpulent. It was also the time when one of his more tiresome quirks began to mark his correspondence: his cutesy references to his scores, the larger they got, as "miniatures". Thus, the sketches for Op.83 were described to Dr. Billroth as "some little piano pieces". He went further with his confidante Elisabeth von Herzogenberg: "It is a tiny, tiny little concerto with a tiny, tiny little scherzo". This for what may well have been the largest piano concerto written to that time in terms of its complexity, thematic variety, and sheer length.

The Concerto in B flat, in four movements rather than the usual three, opens with a mood-setting horn call that seems to gather all the other instruments, with the piano responding to its graceful melody with its own, equally graceful arpeggios before embarking on a thorny cadenza that announces the virtuoso nature of the movement. But it is a virtuosity neither omnipresent nor strained. Whenever one feels the drama is on the verge of getting out of hand, the composer reintroduces a placating element, the opening horn theme, played either by that instrument or by different sections of the orchestra.

Although Brahms labeled the second movement a scherzo (or "tiny, tiny little scherzo") – hardly a form commonly found in a concerto – it is the most dramatic of the four movements, at the outset a crashing workout for the piano, followed and contrasted by a yearning, mellow theme for the violins and a noble trio section, prior to the repetition of the opening histrionics.

The songful, nocturnal slow movement is based entirely on its opening, the solo cello's eight-measure phrase, which is passed to the violins and then expanded by the piano – a melody to which Brahms would later return for his haunting song "Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer" (Ever gentler grows my slumber).

The first impression of the rondo finale is one of gracious relaxation, but the movement is hardly of a single piece or mood, witness the increasing brilliance – building to a pair of aggressive climaxes – of the solo, before returning to the skipping opening theme, and the crunching final orchestral crescendo, by which time the mood has changed from the gracious to the thunderous, in which vein the Concerto ends.


The Three Intermezzi Op.117 are products of the final phase of Brahms's creativity. They belong to the astonishing late harvest of short piano pieces that he composed in 1892-1893 and published in four collections, Opp. 116 to 119. Like the quartets they were written very much with Clara Schumann in mind, for she was destined as the first pianist to see them; but their moods are autumnal, as befits the utterances of nearly forty years of love and friendship. Op.117 could be considered a triptych of lullabies. The second Intermezzo, in B flat minor, wrings music of plaintive delicacy from a simple falling arpeggio figure that melts, with fluid grace, through a succession of tonalities: and the piece traces a miniature sonata design, with a more smoothly flowing second subject in D flat. Development and reprise merge into one another through spiralling arpeggio figuration: the coda finally imposes tonal stability in the shape of an uneasy pedal F, over which the second idea dies away.

Source: Calum MacDonald, 2006

Εκπληκτική μορφολογική διαύγεια, μία αίσθηση ήρεμης υφολογικής σιγουριάς και έντονα συμφωνικός χαρακτήρας διαπνέουν το Δεύτερο Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο του Γιοχάνες Μπραμς, στο οποίο ο σολίστ, παρά τις τεράστιες δεξιοτεχνικές απαιτήσεις της πιανιστικής γραφής, καλείται να συνδιαλεχθεί ως πρώτος μεταξύ ίσων με την ορχήστρα. Το έργο γράφτηκε σε μία περίοδο τριών ετών (1878-1881), λόγω των συναυλιακών υποχρεώσεων του Μπραμς καθώς και της παράλληλης ενασχόλησής του με άλλες συνθέσεις. Η πρεμιέρα του Κοντσέρτου έγινε, με μεγάλη επιτυχία, τον Νοέμβριο του 1881, στη Βουδαπέστη, με τον ίδιο τον συνθέτη στο πιάνο και υπό τη μουσική διεύθυνση του Αλεξάντερ Έρκελ. Έκτοτε το Κοντσέρτο  απέκτησε τη φήμη αν όχι του δυσκολότερου στην κλίμακα των δεξιοτεχνικών απαιτήσεων από τον σολίστ, πάντως ενός από τα δυσκολότερα, με αποτέλεσμα να αντιπροσωπεύει μία κορυφαία πρόκληση στην καριέρα κάθε μεγάλου ερμηνευτή.


More photos

See also

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor – Marc-André Hamelin, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Santtu-Matias Rouvali (HD 1080p)

Marc-André Hamelin plays Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Samuil Feinberg and Maria Szymanowska (HD 1080p)

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.9 in D Major – Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

Gustav Mahler: Kindertotenlieder – Ewa Podleś, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

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